Penn State nuclear engineering opens new collaboration, learning space


By Gabrielle Stewart

NOTE: This story was published ahead of the Sept. 17 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Nuclear Innovation Commons. Highlights of the ceremony are available here.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Nuclear Innovation Commons (NIC) on Sept. 17. The NIC will serve as a teaching and collaboration hub for students, faculty and staff in nuclear engineering, their collaborators, alumni and partners in industry.

“We are so excited for the NIC to transform nuclear engineering at Penn State and across the country,” said Jean Paul Allain, department head. “With spaces to promote discovery, connection and learning, the NIC will support the innovation of nuclear engineering at Penn State as it continues on its mission to be one of the most diverse, inclusive and groundbreaking departments in the country.”

The 5,000-square-foot space incorporates several design elements to foster collaborative and creative learning in the commons and across the globe, including the integration of a fully digitized space for remote engagement:

  • Nuclear Smart Lab (NSL), an instructional digital laboratory
  • Video wall
  • Large central space with a tech bar, collaboration booths, writable walls and a touchscreen Chart of the Nuclides
  • Group ideation rooms with large touchscreen displays
  • Office suite

The NIC’s spaces are accentuated with architectural and design elements intended to represent nuclear technologies, Allain said. Dark blue glass panels were chosen to evoke the blue glow emitted by a nuclear reactor core, known as Cherenkov radiation, and the ceiling’s wood blocks mimic a nuclear fuel assembly inside the core.

“Our vision for the NIC is to connect Penn State nuclear alumni from around the country and the world with our students and faculty in a seamless way: breaking the boundaries of distance and time to inspire both life-long learners and students alike,” Allain said.

A highlight in the space, Allain said, is the NSL. Designed to better facilitate nuclear science and engineering education with advanced computing, digitalization, 3D additive manufacturing and digital twin technologies that can converge with advanced nuclear reactor designs, the NSL will serve as a hub for innovative learning and design.

“The NSL will also provide access to leading-edge knowledge and design capabilities for students at University Park, across the commonwealth and around the world,” Allain said. “Education should be equitable, inclusive and diverse — a major priority in our department.”

According to Allain, the NIC also honors the department’s current students, faculty, staff, alumni and collaborators. The east entrance is named “Nuclear Innovation Commons Gateway: Honoring Penn State Nuclear Trailblazers, Innovators, and Friends” in recognition of nuclear engineering educators, scientists and community members who contributed to the future of the field at Penn State.

“We are proud of the many pioneers of nuclear at Penn State,” Allain said. “Their legacy inspired so many students and helped forge the department’s history of cutting-edge research. We can’t wait for the NIC to continue that tradition and help inspire future leaders of the field in the 21st century.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. on the lawn outside the Engineering Services building. Attendance is invite-only but members of the media are welcome. Email Erin Blumsack, the department’s external relations coordinator, at for more information.


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Watch: Penn State Nuclear Innovation Commons

Watch: Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Highlights


To learn more, download the Nuclear Innovation Commons Brochure.