Camille Palmer is the newest tenure-track faculty hire in the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE). She did her undergraduate studies in health physics at Oregon State before earning both her master’s (1999) and doctorate (2003) in nuclear and radiological engineering from the University of Cincinnati.
Palmer’s career path took her first to Salt Lake City and Northrop Grumman as a systems engineer performing computational simulations of nuclear hardness and survivability of the United States’ intercontinental ballistic missiles.
From there, it was on to Los Alamos National Laboratory working in nuclear stockpile stewardship, then to Oregon State as director of the medical physics program (from 2007 to 2011), and back to Los Alamos analyzing post-detonation nuclear data for the National Technical Nuclear Forensics team. She then returned to Oregon State as coordinator of nuclear forensics in 2014 prior to her current appointment as associate professor.
The common thread through Palmer’s work is the exploration of radiation transport and its effects — whether focused on damage to weapons electronics at Northrop Grumman, solving public health issues in medical physics, or tracking clues left in the environment as to who is responsible in the event of a radiological or nuclear attack.
It’s this expertise, specifically in using nuclear and radiological signatures to monitor and verify treaty compliance, that she plans to add to the existing technical portfolio at Oregon State in nuclear science and engineering.
“I’d like to bring more visibility in the international community to Oregon State’s nuclear science and engineering through an emphasis in security and safeguards,” said Palmer.
Palmer is currently teaching a graduate special topics course on the subject. “It’s in nuclear security science, where we talk about the science and technology support of nonproliferation, forensic signatures from the fuel cycle, and thinking more broadly than you would in traditional nuclear engineering classes,” Palmer said. “If you look at our peer institutions, there are several nuclear engineering programs that are establishing an emphasis in this area.”
Two graduate students, Brittany Robertson and Tyler Oshiro, are currently working under Palmer’s direction. Robertson is at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory working on the verification of enrichment facilities. Oshiro is pursuing a project in collaboration with Geoff Hollinger, core faculty member of the Oregon State Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute, to develop robotic applications for nuclear safeguards. One example would be tagging and sealing objects and equipment in high-radiation environments like a spent-fuel pool.
In the future, Palmer hopes to continue developing a relationship that she’s started with Oregon State’s School of Public Policy in cross-disciplinary course studies focused on nonproliferation and arms control. Several courses have already been offered with support from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, with the potential for more on the way.
— Jens Odegaard.