Jon Schwantes named acting nuclear engineering department head

July 27, 2023

By Tim Schley

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Professor Jon Schwantes has been named acting head of the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State, effective July 1. He steps into the acting role while Jean Paul Allain serves a two-year term as associate director for fusion energy sciences within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Science.

Schwantes joined Penn State as a faculty member in November after previously serving as a senior research scientist for the DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“Penn State has developed a reputation as a top-tier nuclear engineering program; it is the most diverse program I am aware of, leading the way in a number of areas including reactor physics design, plasma physics and fusion energy, nuclear materials, and safeguards and security,” Schwantes said. “I am excited to help build on this legacy and maintain the department’s trajectory to becoming the premiere destination for nuclear research and education.”

Schwantes' expertise in nuclear forensics and radiochemistry helps to inform nuclear security and public policy. He was a member of the confirmatory team for the discovery of element 111, subsequently named Roentgenium, and led a team that identified the oldest known reactor-produced plutonium in the world. Schwantes is currently investigating several uranium metal cubes thought to originate from Nazi Germany’s nuclear weapons program.   

Schwantes also provided forensic analysis and response in cases including the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station and the 2019 breach of a highly radioactive sealed source in a Seattle medical facility. In 2014, Schwantes was appointed by the Secretary of Energy to a team tasked with investigating the cause of the radioactive contamination at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, for which he was awarded the Secretary of Energy's Achievement Award.  


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College of Engineering Media Relations

“I am excited to help build on this legacy while maintaining the department as one of the premiere destinations for nuclear research and education.” — Jon Schwantes