UT students return home

A group of University of Texas at Austin students, who have called Delft their home for the last four weeks, made their way home, but it was not without a grand finale. Just before heading back stateside, the students headed to the nuclear reactors in Mol, Belgium.

“It was absolutely fantastic,” Dr. Sheldon Landsberger, Hayden Head Centennial Professor of nuclear engineering at UT Austin, said. He was especially impressed with the amount of interaction he and his students had with their hosts at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre. “We had videos, a presentation, we had very involved talks with the staff members of how they manage their own radioactive waste, which is rather different than the way that the United States does it,” he went on.

“Something that I didn’t know is that Belgium supplied 72% of the uranium to the United States in World War II for the atomic bombs,” Landsberger said.

This year’s excursion was a success, but the program’s history has not been without its ups and downs. A couple of years ago, Landsberger was determined to create a study abroad program to educate UT students about nuclear science, but a colleague suddenly left in October 2011, when recruiting students to participate last May’s program was paramount. “We almost didn’t make it,” Landsberger admitted, referring to the minimum number of participating students that is needed for a solvent course.

This year’s participant roster included sixteen undergraduates, ranging from first and fourth-year students, with six women and ten men.

Picking TU Delft was a matter of location and connections. “I always had to find a research reactor that was large enough and had the organizational skills to accept sixteen students, and since I knew a colleague, Peter Bode at Delft, he and I arranged it,” Landsberger said.

Running in its second year, the engineering and physics bachelor’s-degree students followed a packed schedule of special courses and academic excursions that centered on nuclear science since the end of May. Although Landsberger and the program’s TA give most lectures, TU Delft graduate students also gave courses this year, mainly over nuclear medicine, which Landsberger says is “a very big thing at TU Delft.”

Next year’s program will round out the current three-year contract that UT Texas has given to Landsberger to support study abroad to TU Delft.

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