In 1956, Virginia Tech established a Nuclear Engineering Program within the Physics Department. Later this program was moved to the Mechanical Engineering Department, and offered degrees until 1985 at which time the program was terminated. In 2007, in response to the nuclear industry in Virginia, former Dean of Engineering, Dr. Richard Benson, and former Department Head of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Kenneth Ball, decided to reestablish a nuclear engineering program (NEP). Dr. Mark Pierson was hired and Prof. Eugene Brown from Mechanical Engineering Department was assigned to start the program by establishing courses, and initiating the application process for receiving approval from the State Council Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) for offering graduate degrees in nuclear engineering.
In 2011, Prof. Alireza Haghighat was hired, and he established the Nuclear Science and Engineering Lab (NSEL) at the VT National Capital Region (NCR, Arlington, VA.) NSEL, which operated under the auspices of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) and Mechanical Engineering Department, tasked with promoting nuclear engineering education and research at NCR by offering courses and degrees, establishing regional agreements, and engaging in multidisciplinary research.
Between 2011 and 2014, Dr. Pierson, and Profs. Brown and Haghighat worked on the degree applications to SCHEV, and in July 2013, NEP received approvals from SCHEV for offering degrees (PhD, MS, and Masters of Engineering) in nuclear engineering, starting 2014 Spring Semester.
*In 2013, former Department Head appointed Dr. Pierson to direct the program. He served until March 2015, at which time, Dr. Azim Eskandarian, current Department Head, appointed Dr. Haghighat as the Director of the Program. Prof. Haghighat works closely with the rest of the core faculty located in Blacksburg and several affiliate faculty members to offer a vibrant educational and research program in Nuclear Engineering at VT. Particularly, he has taken advantage of the NCR campus, and established new educational programs and several research programs.