Penn State College of Engineering introduces graduate nuclear security option

August 6, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – To ensure the continued security and safety of our nation’s nuclear enterprises, the Penn State College of Engineering is formally introducing a nuclear security option in its nuclear engineering master’s program.

“One of the biggest threats to the United States is nuclear terrorism,” Arthur Motta, professor and the chair of nuclear engineering, said. “Through this program, we’ll continue to develop the expertise to detect special nuclear materials that attempt to come into this country and to protect our own nuclear facilities from attack.”

As the first of its kind in the world, this curriculum will prepare students to become the next generation of technical experts in nuclear and radiological security around the world. The nuclear security program is the brainchild of Kenan Ünlü, professor of nuclear engineering and director of the Penn State Radiation Science and Engineering Center.

Ünlü created the program and laboratories with a grant from the United States Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which were designated to develop a comprehensive curriculum in nuclear security, primarily for graduate students studying nuclear engineering.

“The NNSA works to prevent terrorists’ access to nuclear and radioactive materials and quickly identify, secure, and remove these materials that pose a threat to national and international communities,” Ünlü said. “The new nuclear security program at Penn State will be a key resource to help develop the next generation of experts in nuclear security to continue this important work.”

Ünlü added, “The nuclear security program at Penn State is unique and combines the technical, societal, and policy aspects of nuclear security and safety.” Students in the program will gain experience with state-of-the technologies and be trained in nuclear threat assessment and analysis, global nuclear security policies, and nuclear security system designs.

By successfully completing the following five courses, students will receive the designation MS or MEng with a nuclear security option and significantly expand their expertise on these critical issues.

  • NucE 441, Nuclear Security Threat Analysis and Assessment: Nuclear threat assessment and analysis for non-state actors to nuclear and radiological facilities and supply lines. 
  • NucE 442, Nuclear Security System Design: Science and engineering associated with the design, evaluation, and implementation of systems to secure nuclear and radiological materials.
  • NucE 542, Source and Detector Technologies for Nuclear Security: Theory and technology behind detectors, sensors, and source technologies including portal monitors and field deployable radiation detection systems.
  • NucE 543, Nuclear Security Education Laboratory: Hands-on experiences on the radiation detection systems, sensors, devices and source technologies for nuclear security applications.
  • NucE 544, Global Nuclear Security Policies: Introduce students to global policies and laws for nuclear security that are intended to provide a secure environment for the pursuit of legitimate nuclear activities.

The courses were first offered in 2011, but the new option will formally designate students with the needed proficiency in the field. “Through the graduate courses that we have developed, our students are able to address the nuclear threats and issues for nonproliferation around the world,” Motta said.

“As we grow our leadership in nuclear security, this option positions the College of Engineering to have a greater impact on our students and society,” Justin Schwartz, the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering, said. “As one of the top nuclear security programs in the United States, we are compelled to address these issues that simply aren’t going away. This program addresses a topic of national and international urgency. We are committed to establishing programs that enable our students to have career paths where they can have a real impact on society.”

More information on the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering’s graduate programs can be found here.


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Erin Cassidy Hendrick

“As one of the top nuclear security programs in the United States, we are compelled to address these issues that simply aren’t going away." - Justin Schwartz, the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering



With more than 60 faculty members, 330 graduate students, and 800 undergraduate students, the Department of Mechanical Engineering is innovating today what will impact tomorrow’s solutions to meeting our energy needs, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems. We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S., M.Eng.) graduate degrees in mechanical engineering. See how we’re inspiring change and impacting tomorrow at

The Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State is one of the top ranked nuclear engineering programs in the United States. A strong focus on experimental research distinguishes us from many other programs. Our actively growing program has 8 faculty members and almost 90 graduate students. In the Radiation Science and Engineering Center, nuclear engineering students can take advantage of the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor, the longest operating university research reactor in the country. Visit for more information.

Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

137 Reber Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2519