Dr. Justin Watson
Head, Computational Methods Development Department
Senior Research Associate and Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering
Director : Multiphysics Modeling and Simulation Group
Dr. Justin Watson, is a Research Associate and Assistant Professor of Nuclear Engineering, Applied Research Laboratory, Penn State University. Dr. Watson received his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in 2010. Dr. Watson expertise includes coupled time dependent space-kinetics/thermal hydraulics modeling of reactor core for transient analysis, nuclear reactor safety analysis, reactor kinetics and dynamics, high performance computing and high throughput computing, parallel computing software design. In particular, he has developed and implemented two-phase flow models used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for nuclear reactor design, licensing, and operation. Dr. Watson also has experience with the validation and assessment of complex code systems. He is also the System Code Development (SCD) Group Leader for the Global Nuclear Power Safety Center.
Research Interests: Nuclear Power Plant Anomaly Detection, Remote Monitoring and Diagnostics, Multiphysics Simulation
Wenqing Yao is a Ph.D. candidate of nuclear engineering at the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. Wenqing received his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Penn State University respectively. Wenqing’s expertise is machine learning and reactor physics.
Research Interests: Reactor Physics, Core Design, Neutronics, Thermal Hydraulic Analysis, and Nuclear Security
Evan received a B.S. in Nuclear Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in December 2016 as well as a commission as an explosive ordnance disposal officer in the West Virginia National Guard.
Evan worked as an intern within the Nuclear Design group at Westinghouse during the summer of 2016 where he completed an axial fuel design study for a four-loop PWR that was experiencing transient peaking factor margin violations. He studied fourteen fuel designs that were implemented for three cycles and used seven Westinghouse codes to model the fuel designs, generate cross-sections, model cycle depletion, and generate transient peaking factors. The results were documented and the utility will be implementing one of the fuel designs next year.
He hopes to tie together his nuclear engineering experience and the military by serving as a nuclear operations and counterproliferation officer in the Army.
Research Interests: Thermal Hydraulic Analysis and Multiphysics Modeling and Simulation
Grant received a B.S. in Nuclear Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in May 2016 and will be graduating in May of 2018 with a M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. In addition, he is E.I.T. certified for the state of California.
Grant worked as an engineering intern for Tri-Alpha-Energy (TAE) during the summer of 2015 where he performed a first wall conceptual thermal and stress analysis for a future project. He executed a trade-off study to analyze initial designs from system requirements by creating a program in Microsoft Excel that computed and displayed results of user selected designs. Also during his internship, he generated a 57-page SOP for one of TAE’s system. This task included making a P&ID for the system, ordering tags, tagging each component of the system to match the P&ID, and training employees at TAE on how to use the system. Grant will be interning at TAE again during the summer of 2017 and using TRACE to perform thermal hydraulic analyses and simulations for the company.
He hopes to use his Nuclear Engineering knowledge, together with his ability to use of various computer codes, to have a successful career as a Nuclear Engineer.
Grant graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Bucknell University in May 2013. Following graduation, Grant began working within the United States Navy as a nuclear engineer at Naval Reactors in Washington, DC. Grant has worked in both Reactor Servicing and Fluid Systems divisions at NR.
Following graduation from Bucknell, Grant also began taking classes at The Pennsylvania State University World Campus as a non-degree seeking student, and in Fall 2016 declared an intent to major in Mechanical Engineering-Nuclear Engineering at PSU.
As of Fall 2016, Grant is writing a professional paper on nuclear fuel cycles and the implications of fuel cycle on non-proliferation and intends to graduate Spring 2017.
Chris’ nuclear career began in 2004 when he joined the US Navy. After graduating from nuclear power training, he went on to serve aboard an attack submarine homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Technical curiosity soon turned into a quest for deeper knowledge, so Chris passed up a Navy career; opting to enroll full-time at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and graduating in 2009.
Grad school plans were postponed when the lure of sunny Southern California led Chris to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station for his first job as a nuclear engineer. It was there, in January 2012, that the importance of accurate modeling took on personal meaning. An unpredicted hydrodynamic instability caused a rupture in the station’s newly installed, and first-of-a-kind, steam generators. The root cause was a flawed model that failed to reflect actual conditions of flow-induced vibration. The consequences were a $1 billion loss, 16 month NRC investigation and permanent shutdown in May 2013; all of which also meant…a new job.
Building upon the once-in-a-career, albeit unfortunate, experiences at San Onofre, Chris went on to become the Nuclear Licensing Manager at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in western Mississippi. Chris’ department oversaw several major projects including conversion to a 24 month fuel cycle, 20 year license renewal, neutron fluence methodology change and licensed power uprate finalization.
In late 2014, Chris left Mississippi for another stint as department head of Nuclear Licensing; this time at the Fermi Nuclear Generating Station in southeast Michigan. Chris’ group worked closely with several organizations to oversee a contested 20 year license renewal for Fermi Unit 2. In May 2015, the NRC issued a Construction & Operating License for Fermi Unit 3; the first in the world for an ESBWR.
In January 2016, Chris transferred to the Operations department at Fermi where he is currently training for a NRC Senior Reactor Operator license. Upon completion in March 2017, Chris will assume roles as Control Room Supervisor and, ultimately, Operations Shift Manager.
Chris holds a Bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Professional Engineer license from the State of California. His research interests include advancement of NRC-approved core modeling methods. His motivation is to prevent another premature plant shutdown due to design flaws or non-conservative safety analyses, while simplifying the general licensing schemes that challenge development of advanced reactor designs and overall industry growth.
Chris resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife and two dogs. He is an avid scuba diver; a passion that is only rivaled by his love for downhill skiing. Chris has dived in the Caribbean Sea and the South Pacific and Western Indian Oceans. Chris has skied both the American and Canadian Rockies, the French Alps and the Argentine Andes.
Undergraduate Honors Students
Research Interests: Implicit Reactor Analysis
Austin is a junior undergraduate in the Nuclear Engineering program at Penn State. He began working closely with the Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Department near the end of his sophomore year after he became a part of the Toshiba-Westinghouse Scholars Program. At that time, he began working with Dr. Watson on implicit reactor analysis.
Austin is a part of several clubs and honors societies, including Schreyer’s Honors College, Phi Eta Sigma, and ANS. Austin is also a part of Penn State’s Naval ROTC program, where he intends to commission as a Naval Officer and work in the nuclear side of the military. He plans on graduating in the spring of 2018.
Research Interests: Design, Neutronics, Reactor Physics
Ishita transferred to North Carolina State University to continue her Ph.D. studies. While at PSU her research focused on core design/neutronics calculations for High Temperature Reactors. She received her B.S. from Penn State in 2015.
Research Interests: Multiphysics Simulation including structural, forced harmonic, electromagnetic and fluid dynamics
Michael Donnelly is an M.S. student of mechanical engineering at the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. Michael received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. He has worked in industry with mostly defense industry research companies since his undergraduate completion. He is now employed as a staff Research Engineer with the Applied Research Laboratory, Penn State University. Michael’s expertise includes parametric analysis, design, validation and optimization of mechanical systems.
Research Interests: Reactor Physics, Reactor Design & Modeling, Reactor Simulation, Thermal Hydraulics, Safety Analysis
Ramon graduated with a Masters of Engineering degree in May of 2016. For his Master’s of Engineering paper he wrote and overview of critical heat flux in nuclear reactor systems. He received his undergraduate degree in Nuclear Engineering from Penn State in 2014. He received the Louis S. And Sara S. Michael Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Engineering in 2016 and he is a Bunton Waller Assistantship recipient.
Undergraduate Honors Students
Research Interests: Neutronics, Reactor Computer Modeling
Adrian graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering in May 2016. He was heavily involved in the university’s Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Department. He was a Teaching Intern for Fluid Mechanics where he held weekly office hours with students to help them with their homework or exam questions. He was also a grader for Introduction to Reactor Design and held the grader position in the past for Nuc E 310W and Nuc E 309. His senior honors thesis focused on conducting code-to-code verification between TRACE and COBRA-TF during both steady and transient conditions. He was also avtive in our local chapter of ANS and Alpha Nu Sigma, the nuclear engineering honor society. After graduation he was accepted to the M.S. program at PSU.