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March 22 deadline to apply for nuclear forensics school

By Sabrina Zearott, College of Arts & Sciences

nuclear-school-220PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University will host the 2015 Nuclear Forensics Undergraduate Summer School June 15-July 24. The application deadline is March 22; find information at

In its sixth year, the school is run through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. The school was designed to address the nationwide shortage of radiochemists, whose expertise is critical to nuclear forensics.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, undergraduates and physical sciences majors. The program includes tuition/fees, room, board, a trip to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., and a $5,000 stipend.

WSU among radiochemistry leaders

Nuclear forensics is a core activity for U.S. defense. Specialists in the fields of radiochemistry and physics provide defense and law enforcement agencies the ability to analyze radioactive materials, including determining sources and potential uses.

Despite this importance, the U.S. is facing a significant decline in expertise needed to maintain the nuclear forensics workforce.

Many of these experts are in radiochemistry, the chemistry of radioactive elements. Nationally, 79 percent of radiochemistry Ph.D. recipients come from the 13 universities that have two or more radiochemistry faculty.

With six radiochemistry faculty and an active research reactor, WSU stands out in this group. The WSU chemistry department has awarded more than 30 graduate degrees in radiochemistry since 2005.

Nuclear science, policy development

“There is a pressing need to develop the human capital in and around areas related to radiochemistry,” said Nathalie Wall of the radiochemistry group in the WSU Department of Chemistry. “The Nuclear Forensics Summer School is a unique opportunity to introduce undergraduates to advanced topics in the field while providing them both foundational training and related laboratory experience.”

The program gives physical science undergraduates a background in radiochemistry via lectures and laboratories. In addition, students will learn how fundamental science translates to development of nuclear policies.

The school is sponsored by WSU, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, University of Missouri and University of Nevada Las Vegas.


Nathalie Wall, WSU assistant professor of chemistry, 509-335-8917,
Sabrina Zearott, WSU College of Arts & Sciences, 509-335-3965,
Kristen Norris, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 505-667-2514,


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