Second start gives nuclear engineering student opportunity to change his life path


Jeremy Zinser, senior, nuclear engineering, recently attended the College of Engineering’s career fair with the goal of finding a job in nuclear engineering. He is slated to graduate this semester and his goal is to work for an energy company, preferably in North Carolina where he is originally from and where the weather might be a bit warmer than it has been in Pennsylvania this year.

Planning for graduation and looking for a job, Zinser is like almost every other student at the job fair. But Zinser strong motivation to succeed stems from the fact that it took him a little longer than many of his peers to get to this career fair.

“I had to take a lot of steps to get where I am in math,” he said. And math is only one of the challenges he had to overcome.

Zinser went to high school in York, Pa. He dropped out in 10th grade and worked in masonry until about 2006 when work slowed down. He found roofing work in Baltimore but when the economy took a downturn, he was laid off. Without work, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. He could have looked for another manual labor job, something he did well, but he knew it would take a toll on him eventually, and he had higher ambitions. His girlfriend, now wife of three years, suggested that he go to school.

That was the beginning of the journey that led him to Penn State. After taking the GED Zinser began courses at Harrisburg Area Community College. He had struggled with subjects like math and science in high school, so he started with very basic math. Luckily he had an excellent instructor who changed things for him. Now math is something Zinser looks forward to.

“I’m a math guy,” he said. “I just love it, when I’m bored, I pick up a math book and start doing problems.”

With a new appreciation for math, excellent grads, and an interest in engineering, Zinser rejected his advisor’s suggestion to study information technology and enrolled at Penn State York. A longtime fascination with nuclear energy led him to declare his major in nuclear engineering.

Zinser moved to State College to finish his degree in the Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Department at University Park. Other than the campus feeling too big at times, Zinser has enjoyed Penn State.

His list of favorite courses is long, basically anything that includes physics, and he appreciates everyone that has helped him achieve his goal, speaking highly of his professors and some of the teaching assistants he has gotten to know.

“The opportunities are great here,” he said, “and the professors are really good.”

Zinser is ready to put what he’s learned to work. He’s been revising his resume with the hope that it will give him the opportunity talk to some company representatives face-to-face to let them know how hard he will work for them. If his efforts so far are any indication, there is no doubt he will.


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Shea Bracken



The Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Penn State is one of the nation’s largest and most successful engineering departments. We serve more than 1,000 undergraduate students and more than 330 graduate students

We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S., M.Eng.) graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering. MNE's strength is in offering hands-on experience in highly relevant research areas, such as energy, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems.

Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

137 Reber Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2519