A typical day in the life of a nuclear science is rarely “typical” and burgeoning scientists this specialized often find their calling early in life. Our nuclear scientist, Atom Fission, is no exception.
In the third grade, when he insisted on dressing up as the Nutty Professor—à la Jerry Lewis, complete with buck teeth and black-rimmed glasses—Atom’s parents had an inkling that he was going to do something very different with his life. (Which came first, the name or the passion?)
When he got to high school dressing up as a science professor, Dr. Frankenstein or a Bunsen burner seemed childish. So Atom began doing experiments to scare the little kids as they came trick-or-treating at his house: graves that oozed green slime, a headless, battery-operated lab coat that walked around by itself and a giant screen in front of the house back lit, displaying the shadows of a million tiny spiders.
If they’re not careful, they’re going to cause the web to crash
And so it was no surprise to everyone who knew him that, after high school, Atom Fission chose to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder, based on its excellent undergraduate physics program (and rock climbing opportunities, another fancy of Atom’s).
Atom graduated from CU-Boulder with honors and a burning desire to go into nuclear science. He knew he’d have to find a university that offered graduate-level classes and degrees in it, and he also understood that he’d probably need several more years to complete his studies.
Flash forward 5 years. Atom completed his master’s degree in nuclear physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA, and while he was in school, every summer he worked at a research internship at a company that provides fuel, services and technology for the nuclear power industry. By the time Atom graduated, he’d had experience in building an interferometer, designing a heat exchanger and, perhaps just as important, learning how to work with other smart people and collaborating with them—people who already knew how to build an interferometer and had years’ worth of experience designing not just heat exchangers, but also high revolution Si Devices. (Oh yes, the former 8-year-old Nutty Professor, Atom Fission had found his happy place.)
The company offered Atom a fulltime job after he graduated, but Atom decided to head west. He applied and was accepted for a fellowship from a well-known national laboratory that’s associated with a large university in San Francisco. His hopes were to spend the time during the five-year fellowship to work in the area of applied laser, particle beam and plasma technologies, prove himself and eventually be offered a full-time gig.
And that is precisely what happened.
Now, five years into the job, Atom is still excited to go to work; every day is an opportunity for a new discovery to be revealed, a new technology to be employed, a new breakthrough…uh…broken through. Every morning he drives his all-electric Nissan Leaf to the university where he now works. He spends most of his time in a research lab but is also an associate professor for nuclear physics. He recognizes himself in these young students, and knows that it’s his duty as well as his calling to ensure they’re aware of the bright future they can have with nuclear technologies, both as a career and in life in general. His classes are renowned for discussing both the practical technological advantages of nuclear power as well as the ethics of it.
Atom knows that there is still so much out there (in the world) as well as in there (in a cell’s nucleus) to learn about. Yet there is one question that Atom still hasn’t come to grips with: Which came first, Atom’s name or his predilection toward nuclear science?