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Feature Story | Argonne National Laboratory

Nuclear engineer Stauff awarded for excellence in research and early-career leadership

Launching a career in the sciences or engineering can be difficult, but Argonne National Laboratory nuclear engineer Nicolas Stauff has risen to the challenge.

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) presented Stauff the 2015 Young Member Excellence Award for his contributions to innovative nuclear developments and collaborative international efforts and his leadership role among young members. He accepted the award on Nov. 9 at the ANS Winter Meeting and Nuclear Technology Expo in Washington, D.C.

Nicolas is well deserving of this award,” said Temitope Taiwo, deputy director of Argonne’s Nuclear Engineering Division (NE).

His diverse technical expertise and enthusiastic personality make him an excellent ambassador for nuclear energy to the public and to our collaborators, with whom he continues to strengthen relationships.”

Stauff joined the NE Reactor and Fuel Cycle Analysis Section in 2012 — first as a postdoctoral researcher then as a staff scientist in 2013 — and became a member of ANS and the North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAGYN) organization. He is treasurer of the ANS Young Members Group and a member of its executive committee and has served as an officer of the Next Generation in Nuclear Society (NGNS), the Argonne chapter of NAGYN.

Applying a technical background in neutronics modeling, advanced reactor design, and fuel cycle and nuclear waste analysis, Stauff researches sustainable solutions for future nuclear power generation. In particular, his research focuses on fast reactors, a potential alternative to the current generation of Light Water Reactors.

What I study is at the core of Argonne’s history,” Stauff said.

Argonne has played a role in the experimental research and development of every generation of nuclear reactor in the world today and continues to build on this legacy in the field of nuclear systems analysis. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Fuel Cycle Options Campaign, an extensive multi-laboratory effort that includes Argonne, has recently evaluated the potential of 40 different nuclear fuel cycles. Stauff made key contributions to this effort by leading the analysis of nuclear waste radioactivity and toxicity across the proposed fuel cycles.

As an ANS Young Members Group leader, Stauff wants to make sure cutting-edge developments in the field are related to early-career researchers, who are often scattered at different institutions and concentrate on different specialties. The mission of the Young Members Group is to introduce early-career researchers to ANS and get them involved in society workshops, meetings and professional development activities.

Early-career researchers here at Argonne are fortunate that we can easily attend conferences and talks, but not all early-career researchers have that opportunity,” Stauff said.

As part of the executive committee, Stauff is coordinating the launch of a luncheon webinar series that presents one-hour technical talks from leading nuclear researchers and collaboration representatives.

Closer to home, Stauff has organized an annual walk and run” event at Argonne for the past two years; the event highlights the history of nuclear engineering at the lab and its modern counterparts by weaving the event route through important experimental and historical sites on campus.

I feel like not that many people at Argonne really know the depth of its history in nuclear engineering,” Stauff said. We wanted to make an event so that any employee who wanted to participate could.”

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.