As OSU scientists make new discoveries and provide improved products for the world, the Radiation Center often plays an important role.

The radiation center was ranked in the top 10 in nation
The radiation center was ranked in the top 10 in nation

The building sits unobtrusively at the west end of campus. It looks like many a university building. But this one’s different. For one thing, the OSU Radiation Center houses a nuclear reactor.

The reactor is a source of neutrons for local and international researchers. But it also has an educational role. Each year 70 to 75 classes are taught at the Radiation Center, and many of them use the reactor.

“It’s very unusual to have a nuclear reactor on campus, but it’s quite valuable” says Steve Reese, director of the Radiation Center. “Students studying nuclear engineering or radiation health physics can learn how the reactor works in the classroom, then apply the knowledge in the laboratory.”

The center also provides training to Oregon First Responders and teaches hazardous material radiological training courses.

With its TRIGA Mark II research nuclear reactor, a gamma irradiator, gamma radiation spectrometers and germanium detectors, instruments for measurement and monitoring, and other equipment, the Radiation Center has greater combined capabilities than any other university facility in the western half of the United States, Reese says.

Research recently performed at the center or through use of the reactor includes certification testing for next generation nuclear reactors, environmental analysis related to the Hanford site, arsenic contamination studies, bandage sterilization for the Army, and prostate and lung cancer cell studies.

While most of the service performed is for university researchers or other agencies, Reese says he’s trying to greatly expand the center’s research aspect by bringing research into the Radiation Center organization itself in the areas of neutron radiography, neutron activation analysis, and radiochemistry.

In addition to its educational and research functions, the center provides outreach services, offering tours to schools and other groups.

Radiation Center website

OSU Nuclear Engineering program ranked in top 10

As an OSU undergraduate, Nick Ehlers has been involved in research projects in Panama, the Bahamas, and Newport, Oregon.

Nick Ehlers highlights his research as one of his most memorable college experiences
Nick Ehlers highlights his research as one of his most memorable college experiences

Nick Ehlers had the opportunity to do research in a wide range of places as an Oregon State University undergraduate student majoring in biology.

With funding from OSU’s International Undergraduate Research Program, Nick traveled to Panama and the Bahamas to work as a research assistant alongside OSU faculty members Bruce Menge and Mark Hixon. “Both were such amazing experiences,” Nick says. “It was a classroom with no walls and everything and everybody was my professor.”

Then, as part of the marine biology option, Nick had the opportunity to live on-site at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon. The 16-week marine biology course offers students field and laboratory experiences with a variety of instructors, including Sally Hacker, associate professor of zoology, pictured with him above. “This program was one of the reasons that I chose Oregon State,” Nick says.

For the coming year, Nick has accepted a job as a science instructor at the Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California. “This will combine my love of science, research, and education,” he says.

“The three highlights of my college career have been my research, my fraternity, and my involvement in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program,” Nick says.

OSU biology program

Hatfield Marine Science Center

Marine Biology at HMSC

Mark Hixon website

Dana Point Ocean Institute

An OSU-based team hopes to send a self-guiding driverless vehicle over a rugged desert course for the challenge–and a shot at $2 million.

NOTE: The Oregon WAVE team’s participation in the 2005 Grand Challenge ended at the semifinal level—an extraordinary accomplishment for a first-year competitor.

The Oregon WAVE team finished at the semifinal level
The Oregon WAVE team finished at the semifinal level

The challenge is immense.

Send a vehicle over a grueling 150-mile Southwest desert course without a driver or any human intervention, including remote control.

The reward is great.

The Department of Defense is offering $2 million to the team whose autonomous vehicle successfully completes the winding, obstruction-laden course the fastest within a 10-hour time period.

An OSU-based team of 30 engineering students, faculty members, and local engineers is among 40 semifinalists–and the only one from the Northwest–seeking the prize.

The impetus for entering the competition was the autonomous vehicle research of Belinda Batten, head of the OSU Department of Mechanical Engineering and faculty mentor for the team, as well as the interest of students and others.

“To be one of 40 finalists from an original field of 195 teams in our first year attempting this testifies to the creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance of the people involved,” Batten said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment.”

Matt MacClary, team member and engineering graduate student, agrees. “I knew this would be tough because many of the other teams have a lot more resources than ours, and many competed in the Grand Challenge race last year,” he said. “Our vehicle is one of the lightest and most fuel efficient in the running.”

While other teams put hundreds of thousands of dollars into their vehicles, the OSU-based team, called Oregon WAVE (Willamette Autonomous Vehicle Enterprise), spent about $5,000 to modify a mini-Baja car to reach the semifinals. The vehicle was donated by OSU’s 2003 Mini-Baja race team.

The next step in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) test is head-to-head competition September 27 to October 5 in Fontana, California. The top 20 teams will advance to the national finals.

And if the OSU-based team should win the $2 million?

“I would anticipate it would be used to fund research in autonomous vehicles,” Batten said, “not simply ground vehicles, but there is a fair amount of work on campus that relates to autonomous underwater vehicles and autonomous air vehicles.”

Oregon WAVE team website

Belinda Batten website

College of Engineering site

DARPA Grand Challenge website

Corvallis Gazette-Times story on OSU team