SDSU coordinator of nuclear education named


Associate Professor Robert McTaggart has been named coordinator of nuclear education at South Dakota State University as the school launches its new minor in nuclear engineering this fall.

The new option for SDSU students is being administered in the College of Engineering through the physics department in cooperation with the mechanical and electrical engineering departments.

Approved by the South Dakota Board of Regents in October 2009, the goal of the minor is to provide value-added credentials and training for students seeking bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and physics.

McTaggart is an experimental nuclear/particle physicist, who earned his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. He has worked with the large particle accelerators at FermiLab in Batavia, Ill.

Employed at SDSU since 2004, McTaggart said having the title of coordinator will better facilitate contacts with external companies and national laboratories that provide internships required for the minor.

“I’m very excited about this position, because it means we are providing opportunities for students in a field that desperately needs their talents,” he said.

Besides SDSU, the closest schools in the Midwest with nuclear education programs, are the University of Wisconsin, Kansas State University and Iowa State University.

Currently conducting research related to the Sanford Underground Laboratory in Lead, McTaggart’s background and credentials make him the ideal person to lead the nuclear science/engineering education program, according to Joel Rauber, physics department head.

The nuclear engineering minor requires 18 credit hours of study, which includes modern physics, health physics, introduction to nuclear engineering, two electives and an internship approved by McTaggart at a nuclear power plant, nuclear facility or a company in the nuclear industry.

McTaggart, who earned a Bachelor’s of Science in physics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from West Virginia University, called nuclear energy a challenging field.