Engineer refines nuclear knowledge

Philip Theisen

After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering, Philip Theisen looked for opportunities to expand his knowledge and skills with more hands-on experience. Finding and receiving an appointment to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) Fellowship Program, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, which is managed by ORAU for DOE, was just what he was looking for.

In the program, Theisen generates conceptual drawings of state-of-the-art equipment for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant using AutoCAD, a software application for 2D and 3D computer-aided design and drafting, for various project proposals involving mechanical equipment and office buildings while assisting management with the research, funding and estimates of these projects. He has also discovered a field complementary to his current area of expertise.

Theisen has expanded his goals "to improve my skills and knowledge in the radiation field so I can learn more about the cleanup of radioactive waste, which could help me potentially work with nuclear reactors in the future," he explained. The experience he obtained in the CBFO program was more than he had hoped for because he was able to explore the human effects of radiation exposure.

With direction from mentor Oba Vincent, Theisen provides support to the National Analytical Management Program Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) Subcommittee, which is working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Theisen assists DOE laboratories in setting up CLIA-certified programs that are designed to determine the contamination levels of people who are potentially exposed to radioactive materials, such as during a radiation accident.

"Eventually, I hope to achieve a master's and doctorate degree in nuclear engineering," he said. "This research opportunity with DOE has provided me with valuable experience specific to my field of interest and a foundation to help me achieve my long-term goals."