In the summer of 2012 Washington College student Karli Newcity ʼ13 found herself among a select group of academically gifted chemistry students from around the country bound for a four-week stay at the University of Missouri. Their purpose: to learn the basic elements of nuclear forensics from some of the nation’s foremost authorities on the subject.
Nuclear forensics, a new field that emerged in the wake of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, has codified the science of identifying and tracking individual strains of radioactive material from a site of discovery to the reactor from which they originated. The United States government employs many of these scientists to hunt radioactive materials back to their source in its efforts to crack down on nuclear proliferation.
Newcity, eager to follow in the footsteps of her father (a fingerprinting specialist for the FBI), was invited to the program by Dr. David Robertson, director of education and research at the MU reactor.
During the course of the internship Newcity toured the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Y12 National Security Complex and visit their respective reactors. Newcity found the experience eminently worthwhile saying that it has not only given her an understanding of “the different methods and techniques that underpin nuclear forensics and radiochemistry” but also “a brand new approach on how nuclear forensic scientists look at the periodic table.”