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NCSS History

Reprinted from the Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, Vol. 219, No. 2 (1997) 231-236 by permission Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest (Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam)

The American Chemical Society’s Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology’s
Summer Schools in Nuclear and Radiochemistry

J.  R.  Peterson

Department of Chemistry, University of Tennessee. Knoxville, TN, 37996-1600 and Transuraniurn Research Laboratory (Chemical and Analytical Sciences Division), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, P.O. Box 2008. Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6375, USA

(Received March 12, 1997)

This successful educational program in nuclear and radiochemistry for advanced undergraduate students is described. Funding from the U.S. Department of Energy supports 24 fellowships for participants in the intensive six-week programs at San Jose State University (CA) and Brookhaven National Laboratory (NY). Students are provided transportation to and from the school site, room and board, books, lab supplies, and six units of college credit. The instructional program consists of lectures and laboratory exercises that cover the fundamentals of nuclear theory, radiochemistry, nuclear instrumentation, radiological safety, and applications in research, medicine, and industry. Guest lectures and field trips broaden the students’ exposure to nuclear science. Assistance is provided in the following year to those students who wish to join a research project at a university or national laboratory, and thereafter, in their applications to graduate or professional school.


Unfortunately there has been no history written about the summer school(s), so it will be one of the goals of this paper to do so. As this author was appointed the Interim Director of the summer schools only in August 1995, he is relying on input from others in this recounting of -the history of the schools. Also presented are the benefits for participants in the schools, some feedback received from participants in the schools, and the status of school operations for summer 1996.


In Fall 1977 American Chemical Society Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology (NUCL) Chair-Elect Dr. Bruce DROPESKY (Los Alamos National Laboratory) appointed an ad hoc Committee on Training of Nuclear and Radiochemists [Drs. Greg CHOPPIN (Florida State University), Rolfe HERBER (Rutgers University), and Dave O’KELLEY (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)] to conduct a national survey on the current status of training of nuclear and radiochemists. This action was to address concerns expressed by NUCL members that the vigor and magnitude of academic training in nuclear and radiochemistry was declining due to shrinkage in faculty, students. and research funding. The committee’s scope was limited by time and expense, but they addressed the supply/demand concerns in sufficient depth to provide a quantitative base.

Some conclusions in the committee’s report, presented in Spring 1978, were the following:1

  • Graduate student population in nuclear and radiochemistry is decreasing. There were 68 Ph. D. degrees awarded in 1976, but the committee estimated. based on the number of students currently in the pipeline, that only 30 Ph. D. degrees would be awarded in the 1980-81 academic year. This is a decrease of 56%! Reasons offered were less student interest, decreased funding for research positions, and lack of access to the new accelerators.
  • The number of Ph.D. degrees in nuclear and radiochemistry being awarded is inadequate over the short term (5y) and could be in serious imbalance with the need by 1988.

How to address these issues? (1) Add young faculty in nuclear and radiochemistry, and (2) provide assurance of adequate funding in nuclear and radiochemistry by federal agencies. Such funding was viewed as only marginal in 1978 for the current level of faculty and student population and certainly inadequate for any growth.

In summary, “…the survey data indicate a significant growth in demand for chemists trained in nuclear science. The declining student population will not provide an adequate number of graduates to meet this demand. Stimulation of student interest by fellowships, etc., will be successful only if it is accompanied by addition of younger faculty in nuclear and radiochemistry. Such stimulation of student and faculty populations can he achieved only by direct action of federal agencies through fellowships, increased research funding, etc.”1

It was in this climate that Dr. Patricia A. BAISDEN (Trish) of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) began to work toward the founding of the summer school in nuclear and radiochemistry. “It was something [she] dearly believed in, and [she] just went from place to place until [she] could get support.2 Trish started in 1981 trying to convince the Chairs of the American Chemical Society’s NUCL Division [Drs. Jerome HUDIS (1981, Brookhaven National Laboratory), Richard HAHN (1982, Oak Ridge National Laboratory), and Sheldon KAUFMANN (1983, Argonne National Laboratory)] that the division could do it. She also pushed the idea to the members of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council’s Committee on Nuclear and Radiochemistry (CNR). Getting National Research Council Staff Officer Dr. Bill SPINDEL and CNR Chair Dr. Ed MACIAS (Washington University, St. Louis) on board gave the proposed program some added prestige. Trish then had to convince the American Chemical Society (ACS) that running such a summer school was an activity in which one of its divisions could and should be involved. She told them that she would do all the work and give them the required financial and progress reports for sending on to the financial sponsor. In return ACS agreed that no overhead would be charged for handling such an educational grant.

In 1983 Trish approached San Jose State University, San Jose, CA (SJSU), to take advantage of their existing Nuclear Science Facility, experienced faculty members (Drs. Alan LING and Ruth YAFFE), a school without a graduate program in chemistry, ability to offer students college credit, their location near a number of “nuclear” facilities, and LLNL upper management’s willingness to provide assistance in terms of released time for LLNL employees who participated in the summer school, designing and printing of color advertisement posters, and invitations to many of the school’s guest lecturers to present seminars at LLNL while in the area (thus defraying travel costs otherwise chargeable to the school).

The initial proposal for the six-week Summer School in Nuclear and Radiochemistry was submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (DOE-OBES) and handled by Ms. Antoinette JOSEPH, its policy and management director. The proposal was approved after Dr. Elliot PIERCE, then Director, Division of Chemical Sciences, OBES sent Ms. JOSEPH a brief and strong memorandum underscoring the national need for this solidly conceived program. Student applications for the first summer school in 1984 were handled by Ms. Peggy POSEY in Bill SPINDEL’Soffice at the National Research Council (NRC). CNR Chair Ed MACIAS headed the first Student Selection Committee.

The Outstanding Student in the 1984 class was Mr. Howard HALL, from the College of Charleston in South Carolina and he was invited to speak at the Fall 1984 ACS national meeting in a symposium on nuclear chemistry education. The 1984 summer school graduates who desired were assisted in finding research opportunities in nuclear science for summer 1985.

Trish encouraged involvement of division members through service on committees to select the students, to be a guest lecturer at the school. to evaluate the curriculum. to survey the student response to the program for course improvement, to assist with the location of summer research opportunities for the school graduates, to help with compiling information about graduate school programs in nuclear science, etc. She continued to run the division’s Summer School(s) in Nuclear and Radiochemistry through the 1992 schools. The NUCL Division won its first ACS Award for Outstanding Small Division in 1987 (for 1986 operations), primarily for the establishment and successful operation of the summer school (a significant educational and outreach project). Formal recognition of Trish’s tremendous contribution to the summer school program. along with the presentation of an ACS plaque as a token of the division’s appreciation, occurred at the regular division Business Meeting in Washington, DC in August 1990.

Participant benefits

At this point it may be useful to list some of the benefits which accrue to the participants in the summer school, all of whom are exposed to the challenges, opportunities, and successes of nuclear and radiochemistry:

Full-ride fellowship (transportation, tuition, books, room & board).Grounded in fundamentals of nuclear and radiochemistry.Hands-on laboratory experience.Exposure to variety of nuclear science applications and practitioners.One-on-one interactions with instructors and guests.Guest lecturers who broaden the scope of nuclear science applications covered in the course.Nuclear science site visits.Social and cultural events on weekends.College/university course credit (6 units).Information about graduate programs in nuclear science.Outstanding student from each site attends Fall ACS national meeting and talks at NUCL Division business meeting (expenses paid).Graduates get help with finding research opportunities the following summer, recommendation letters for graduate and professional schools, encouragement to stay in nuclear science, etc.

Pivotal Document Supporting Necessity of a Second Summer School in Nuclear and Radiochemistry

In February 1988 a workshop was held in Washington, DC to address the training requirements needed for chemists who work in nuclear medicine, the nuclear power industry, the U.S. DOE’s Laboratories, and related areas of nuclear science and technology. A report of the workshop was issued later that year by the National Academy Press.3 The workshop was organized by the NRC in five focus areas, each presenting a status report prepared by the leaders of the panel assigned to that particular focus area. Each panel then discussed their area of concern and came up with a list of findings and recommendations for improvements. The five focus areas were:

(1) Academic faculty and research in nuclear and radiochemistry.

(2) Other nuclear science areas, e.g., earth and cosmological sciences, life sciences, environmental sciences, materials science, separations science.

(3) National laboratories.

(4) Nuclear medicine and radiopharmaceuticals.

(5) Nuclear power industry.

Some of the findings pertinent to the present discourse were:

(1) Based on a survey made in late 1987, there was a 60% decrease in radiochemical faculty between 1978 and 1987.

(2) The same survey noted a 57% decrease in nuclear and radiochemical courses offered in Ph.D.-granting departments.

(3) Each of the five focus areas found a clear and growing need for scientists thoroughly trained in radiochemistry.

(4) Each of the five focus areas needs personnel having had as minimum training a core lecture course plus hands-on laboratory experience in nuclear and radiochemistry.

The present author invites readers to peruse Appendix E of the workshop report3 to see the details of the six categories of nuclear and radiochemical research interests used in collecting the survey data. It is also important to recall the societal impact of two events that occurred between the survey of late 19873 and the one reported in 1978,1 i.e., the nuclear reactor accidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania (1979) and at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union (1986). These events, and the public perception of them, undoubtedly played some role in the decreases noted in the number of faculty and graduate students pursuing nuclear and radiochemical research. One specific recommendation of this NRC workshop was to establish a second summer school in nuclear and radiochemistry at an eastern site.3

Founding or the second summer school in nuclear and radiochemistry at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, Long Island, New York

Already in August 1987 at the ACS national meeting, Dr. Seymour KATCOFF of the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) discussed with Trish BAISDEN the possibility of a second summer school. to be held at BNL. Following the strong recommendation of the NRC workshop3 for a second school, he approached other nuclear chemists at BNL and the BNL Chemistry Department Chairman, requesting laboratory space, a lecture hall, and permission to use some equipment. There was some apprehension that such a school might interfere with the BNL research programs, but permission was granted.

In addition BNL administration approved on-site housing for the students and some off-site staff, and the BNL Office of Educational Programs offered to sponsor social events for the students. Dr. John ALEXANDER (1988 Chair of the ACS NUCL Division and Professor, State University of New York [SUNY]-Stony Brook) secured affiliation of the summer school with SUNY-Stony Brook, enabling the awarding of college credit for the course. Dr. Ivor PREISS of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a senior nuclear chemist with experience in teaching nuclear and radiochemical laboratory courses, agreed to assist with the laboratory portion of the course. Laboratory equipment not available at BNL was borrowed from RPI and nuclear instrument companies (notably Canberra).

Dr. Trish BAISDEN, now Chair of the NUCL Division’s Committee on Training of Nuclear and Radiochemists, applied for and received the necessary funding from the DOE to support a second summer school. Dr. Seymour KATCOFF, named Director of the BNL summer school, served also as a part-time instructor to their first class in 1989. The main lecturers were Drs. John ALEXANDER, Daeg BRENNER (Clark University), and Ivor PREISS. Dr..Y. Y. CHU (BNL) assisted Dr. PREISS in running the laboratory program, along with two graduate student assistants.

BNL participant statistics and comments

Following six years of the BNL summer schools, Dr. Y. Y. CHU, who succeeded Seymour KATCOFF as Director of the BNL summer school, surveyed their graduates from 1989 through 1994. He found that 65% were in graduate school, 24% were in medical school, 7% were in M.D./Ph.D. programs, 41% were in nuclear science, and 80% felt that their summer school experience was helpful in getting a research job the following summer. Some of the comments that the graduates wrote on their surveys were:

“It was the single most enriching academic experience of my undergraduate career. Without it I would not have received my admission to the M.D./Ph.D. program at University of Michigan.””I liked it so much I came back.” [as a Teaching Assistant]”[It] was one of the best experiences I had during my undergraduate career. I really enjoyed meeting top-notch researchers at BNL.””I am very thankful for the program. It is a well-run, successful program that brings students into the field of nuclear science.””The program is excellent. I have recommended it to three of my friends.””[It] was a very valuable and challenging experience. It helped me choose a graduate school and field of interest.” [environmental radiochemistry]

Notes from the 1995 SJSU summer school in nuclear and radiochemistry

Of particular note in the 1995 summer school at SJSU was the presence of Dr. Carolyn ANDERSON, a graduate of the first summer school at SJSU and now in Radiological Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. Carolyn lectured to the students on nuclear medicine and radiopharmaceuticals, currently one of the high interest and growth areas in nuclear science. She was very well received and represented a successful role model to the participants. This is a welcomed sign of both the maturity of this summer school program and its success in bringing new talent into the field of nuclear science.

Scientific field trips during the school included the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (selected facilities), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (selected facilities), and Science Applications International Corporation. Cultural/social trips included the Cowell Redwood Park, Natural Bridge State Beach, Mission San Juan Bautista, Monterey Bay, San Francisco, Old Sacramento, Yosemite National Park, and the California Geysers in Calastoga. There was also a dinner talk on author John Steinbeck.

Outside guest lecturers covered such topics as “Nuclear Shapes from the Mundane to the Exotic”, “Introduction to Radiation Therapy”, “Bulk Phase Chemical Studies on the Edge of Matter”, “Reactors, the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, and Actinide Disposal”, “‘Graduate Careers in Nuclear Chemistry”, “New Elements and Work with Ten U.S. Presidents”, and “An Industrial Career in Nuclear Medicine”. In addition there was a full day devoted to a Nuclear Medicine Workshop, with academic, government, and industrial participants sharing their experience and perspective with the students.

Program evaluation and evolution

An important component of the summer school program at both sites is the annual evaluation by the students and collection of their suggestions for improvement. This is accomplished by having the students complete anonymously a written survey of their opinions of most of the aspects of the summer school program, with the opportunity to provide any other comments or suggestions they wish without any prompting. In addition, at the SJSU site, guest lecturers are routinely asked to interview the students while interacting with them in the absence of any of the course instructors. This yearly feedback from the program participants has resulted in the program’s evolution over time to make the six-week experience more comfortable, meaningful, productive, interesting, and valuable to the students. The one thing that has not changed is the program’s commitment to quality instruction and the heavy workload demanded of the students. Of course the latter is always mentioned by the students as a complaint, but the old adage “What you get out of the program is directly proportional to the effort you put into it” applies.

Recruiting for the 1996 summer schools in nuclear and radiochemistry

Because of the decreased number of applications received for the 1995 schools, careful attention was paid to recruiting applicants for the 1996 schools. A description of the summer school program and the names and schools of the 1995 participants were placed on the Home Page of the ACS Division of . Nuclear Chemistry and Technology (WebSite URL is http://www.cofc.edu/~nuclear)*, courtesy of Dr. Barbara STOUT (University of Cincinnati), the division’s first WebMaster. For the first time electronic mail requests for information and application packets were accepted. This turned out to be the main pathway for students’ inquiring about the 1996 schools.

Color posters, a black-and-white version of which is given in Fig. 1, were mailed to all members of the ACS NUCL Division with U.S. addresses, along with a challenge for the academic members to seek at least one suitable candidate and encourage his/her application. A color poster went to each of the faculty advisors of the 930 ACS Student Affiliate chapters. Some 150 posters were sent to each of the Fall 1995 ACS regional meetings in Rochester, NY (northeast region), San Diego, CA (western region), Joplin, MO (midwest region), and Memphis, TN (combined southeast and southwest regions) for distribution at undergraduate and/or chemical educational symposia. In addition the present author attended the undergraduate programs at the Memphis meeting and recruited via personal interactions, along with the help of Ms. Jennifer TYREE (University of Tennessee, Martin), a graduate of the 1995 BNL summer school. About 500 posters were also sent from BNL based on a list maintained by their Office of Educational Programs.

Articles describing the availability of fellowships and soliciting applications for the summer schools were published in the regular newletters of the ACS’s Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology and Division of Chemical Education, Chemunity NEWS (from the Education Division of the national ACS), ACSess (from the Membership Division of the national ACS), and in Chemistry (the ACS Student Affiliate Magazine).

Status of the 1996 summer schools in nuclear and radiochemistry

Of the 266 requests for application packets, 94 actual applications were received. Primary and alternate participants were selected by the Student Selection Committee [Drs. Peter HAUSTEIN (BNL), Chair, Carolyn ANDERSON, and Steven YATES (University of Kentucky)]. Dr. Y. Y. CHU (BNL) extended the invitations and placed 12 students at each site. There were 15 acceptances from the top 24 candidates.

The progress report and continuation paper-work with a budget request of $240,842 for the 1996 summer schools was submitted to DOE in December 1995. The requested funding was awarded and the start date changed to March 15. 1996, to accommodate the need for startup and student travel monies earlier in the calendar year than provided in the current grant year.

The school director at the BNL site is Dr. Y. Y. CHU. The main lecturers will be Drs. Daeg BRENNER (Clark University), Peter HAUSTEIN (BNL), and Roy LACEY (SUNY-Stony Brook). The 1996 class will consist of five females, seven males, three sophomores, eight juniors and one senior. The schools represented by these students are Fairfield University (CT), Capital University (OH), Wheeling Jesuit College (WV), New Jersey Institute of Technology, Alverno College (WI), Barnard College (NY), Eastern Michigan University, Simon’s Rock College (MA), Northern Arizona University, Polytechnic University (NY), and Manhattan College (NY).

The school director at the SJSU site is Dr. Herbert SILBER. The main lecturers will be Drs. Bob SILVA (LLNL, retired) and Carolyn ANDERSON (Washington University, St. Louis), and Mr. John PICKERING (SJSU). The 1996 class will consist of four females, eight males, five sophomores, five juniors, and two seniors. The schools represented by these students are Michigan State University, California State University (Dominquez Hills), Wells College (NY), Fullerton College (CA), St. John’s University (NY), University of Idaho, Creighton University (NE), University of California (Davis), New York University, Wabash College (IN), St. Mary’s University (MN), and Capital University (OH).

The information supplied by Drs. Trish BAISDEN (LLNL), Seymour KATCOFF (BNL), and Y. Y. CHU (BNL) was instrumental in facilitating this article. Their cooperation and continuing interest in and support of the summer school program of the ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology is gratefully acknowledged and greatly appreciated. The preparation of this article was sponsored by the Division of Chemical Sciences. Office of Basic Energy Sciences. U.S. Department of Energy under grant DE-FG05-98ER13865 to the University of Tennessee and contract DE-AC05-96OR22464 with Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corp.


1. ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology, Report of the ad hoc Committee on Training of Nuclear and Radiochemists, 1978.

2. P. A. BAISDEN, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, private communication, 1996.

3. Training Requirements for Chemists in Nuclear Medicine, Nuclear Industry, and Related Areas – Report of a Workshop, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1988.