Nuclear Professional Profiles: Reactor Engineer (Part 2)

Jenn Saucier, McGuire Nuclear Station

In this two-part series, the Nuclear Information Center offers a glimpse into what it is like to be a reactor engineer. We asked Jenn Saucier, a reactor engineer at McGuire Nuclear Station to sit down with us and share a few insights into her role as a nuclear reactor engineer. Jenn has worked at McGuire Nuclear Station for three years.

If you missed part 1, click here.

Part 2

Q. What is your educational background? What made you decide to go into this field?

I have a Bachelors of Science in mechanical engineering and a Masters of Science. in nuclear engineering from the University of Cincinnati. Go Bearcats! If I tell the truth, I kind of just fell into the Nuclear Industry on accident. When I first started looking at colleges, I expected to study mechanical engineering at a school that had a co-op program. I graduated from high school in a suburb of Syracuse, NY and I knew that no matter how much my Mom pleaded, I had no desire to stay in New York for college; thus, I launched my tour of the usual suspects of engineering schools in the Midwest. Somewhere during my search I learned that UC had actually invented the co-op program 100 years ago. I visited the campus and, as lame as it sounds, had one of those I-know-this-is-the-school-for-me moments. While I was there, I met with a professor from the mechanical and nuclear engineering department. They had just started an accelerated engineering program that year where, at the end of five years you would leave with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, an M.S. in nuclear engineering and 15 months of a co-op experience.

My first and second co-op experiences were with Y-12 in Oak Ridge, Tn. My third and fourth co-op rotations were with Duke Energy in the safety analysis group of the nuclear generation department in Charlotte, NC. Completely expecting that ultimately I would take a full position at the general office in the nuclear generation department, I told my co-op supervisor that for my next rotation “I want to go to the plant, to prove to myself that I never want to work at the plant.” My experience speaks for itself as for my fifth and final co-op rotation I held a position as a reactor engineer at McGuire Nuclear Station. When I graduated in 2009, Duke Energy asked me where I would prefer to work: In the general office or a plant. My choice? I came back to McGuire as a reactor engineer. The very place I thought “I would never want to work.” But I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now. So that was a really long answer to say that I sort of feel like this field chose me, instead of me choosing it.

Q. What professional groups are you a member of?

I am member of Women In Nuclear (WIN) and North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN). Both groups are similar in that they are driven by offering professional development opportunities for their members as well as public outreach and education for the community. Both groups aim to help their members succeed in the nuclear industry. Duke Energy has very active chapters of both organizations.

Q. What do you see is the biggest benefit of nuclear energy?

The easy answer here is that nuclear power offers the largest sources of baseload generation which emits no greenhouse gases and is extremely reliable. In a time when the national economy makes headlines every day, it is important to recognize the quantity and quality of jobs that nuclear energy provides to the local economy. It takes people of all educational backgrounds to run a nuclear power plant (welders, operators, security guards, material handlers, radiation protection technicians, mechanical and electrical maintenance technicians, engineers, trainers, and the list goes on) and they are paid well!  

Q. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

I don’t eat much ice cream these days but I do love Cookies-N-Cream!

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