New nuclear engineering professor plans to inspire students, progress department


By Tessa M. Pick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Martin de Jesus Nieto-Perez, associate teaching professor of nuclear engineering at Penn State, first learned about nuclear energy, he was immediately intrigued.

“When I heard about nuclear energy in high school, I was fascinated by it; and when I was in college and heard there were people working on trying to harness the nuclear process that powers the stars and use it as a practical energy source here on Earth, that sealed the deal,” Nieto-Perez said.

According to Nieto-Perez, nuclear engineering academic programs are hard to find in his home country of Mexico, so though he chose to study chemical engineering as an undergraduate student at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, his interest in nuclear engineering remained.

“Growing up in a developing country and seeing first-hand the consequences of asymmetrical access to energy really motivated me to pursue a career focused on energy,” he said.

Nieto-Perez decided to come to the United States to pursue his passion for nuclear energy, earning his master’s and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Now, as faculty member in the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering, he plans to use that passion to inspire his students.

“Passing my knowledge to young professionals has always been a gratifying experience for me,” Nieto-Perez said. “I am a very passionate teacher, and I try to infuse that passion in the learning experience of my students.”

Currently teaching fundamentals of reactor physics and plasma engineering to undergraduates, Nieto-Perez said interacting with students in the formative years of their college education is an important role he is excited to take on.

“A good teacher in that stage can really make a difference in your professional life, and I hope I can become a teacher that the students have good memories of,” he said.

Before coming to Penn State, Nieto-Perez worked at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) in Mexico for 13 years, where he taught at the graduate level, advised master’s and doctoral students and progressed his research in plasmas.

During his time at IPN, Nieto-Perez served as the principal investigator for numerous research projects. His work focused on liquid lithium interaction with materials for fusion applications, surface modification of materials using atmospheric plasmas, synthesis and destruction of chemicals using atmospheric plasmas and the insertion of fission-fusion hybrid systems on the nuclear fuel cycle.

“With over 50 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Nieto-Perez brings a wealth of experience in the area of advanced fusion-fission hybrid systems, fusion plasma-facing components, industrial plasmas and plasma engineering,” said Jean Paul Allain, department head of nuclear engineering. “He will be supporting our plasma science and engineering initiative as we expand into areas of materials in extreme environments, plasmas for industry and nuclear fusion applications, as well as plasma medicine. We look forward to all the contributions that Dr. Nieto-Perez will make to our department as we grow in these strategic areas in the future.”

Nieto-Perez said he is excited to the collaborate with the faculty and staff at Penn State to help further his research and contribute to the growth of the University and the nuclear engineering department.

“There was one thing that really attracted me to Penn State: the opportunity to be part of a team laying the foundation of a new academic department; that is quite a challenge, and I love challenges,” Nieto-Perez said. “The reward of seeing a thriving department in the future, look back and say, ‘I helped build this,’ is priceless and very rewarding.”


Share this story:

facebook linked in twitter email


College of Engineering Media Relations

headshot of a man

Martin de Jesus Nieto-Perez joined the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering as an associate teaching professor in August. IMAGE: PENN STATE COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING