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Why Science?

ORNL is proud of its role in fostering the next generation of scientists and engineers. We bring in talented young researchers, team them with accomplished staff members, and put them to work at the lab’s one-of-a-kind facilities. The result is research that makes us proud and prepares them for distinguished careers.

We asked some of these young researchers why they chose a career in science, what they are working on at ORNL, and where they would like to go with their careers.

Pedro Vicente Valdez Jr.

Graduate student, Reactor and Nuclear Systems Division
Ph.D. student, Nuclear Engineering, University of California, Berkeley
Hometown: Tijuana, Mexico

What are you working on at ORNL?

I work on validating the upcoming Molten Salt Reactor modeling capabilities of the SCALE simulation suite. More specifically, I focus on modeling the online fuel processing systems available in MSRs and studying their impact on several reactor physics parameters—like reactivity and poison fraction and their effects on factors like the breeding potential.

What would you like to do in your career?

I would like to contribute to making Generation IV advanced nuclear reactors a reality. The world is in need of clean and sustainable baseload energy, and I truly believe nuclear–renewable hybrid energy systems are the solution. This is why I plan on dedicating my career to advance reactor modeling.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I have always been fascinated with knowing how things work. How does a power plant produce energy? What materials are needed in environments as harsh as a nuclear reactor core? With science, specifically nuclear engineering, I found a way to continue answering many of these intriguing questions while helping the global warming challenge.