Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences

Addressing Structural Racism in Nuclear Energy

brick tower between two trees in autumn


Dear Nuclear Community:

The urgency to address embedded structural racism has become clear since the killing of George Floyd. As the current leader of the Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences Department at The University of Michigan. I’m compelled to eradicate hidden, embedded or departmental practices that enable or perpetuate racism.  We must welcome and nurture diverse scientists, including those who are Black, should the field of nuclear engineering be of interest to them.  As an academic institution, we are the input valve for the human resources in our field. We need to lead.

The nuclear engineering and radiological sciences field is not diverse.  Nuclear engineering departments across the U.S. are not diverse, including at the University of Michigan. We know that concrete and quantifiable measures are needed to address this issue. 

The nuclear engineering field was founded in military and classified programs with a white, male dominated, and hierarchical worldview and never really changed. We became a very cloistered field, unable to open the door and welcome vast amounts of talent. To date, the nuclear sector has failed to create a culture where Black people can thrive and have an impact. 

Releasing statements saying “We recognize the problem and vow to do better” will not make us better. They really just avoid the issue; we need to make specific pledges, carry them out, evaluate their effectiveness, and then establish new pledges. 

So, here are my first pledges for the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences Department at Michigan.

  • We will financially assist students and student groups focused on initiatives that uplift and give voice to diverse scientists, including those who are Black. We want to create a culture that promotes a sense of belonging in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences;
  • We will increase our outreach to underserved communities and build clear pathways to the opportunities in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences;
  • We will spend resources and time to build dedicated recruiting pipelines, as well as research partnerships with minority serving institutions, as a part of our ongoing efforts to improve the representation of Black students, faculty, and staff;
  • We will strive to have diverse representation in our seminars and colloquia;
  • We will direct speaking and media opportunities to diverse students, faculty and staff, including those who are Black, as they desire because visibility and representation matter.

We will measure and share our results inside and outside of our department, which will ensure transparency and accountability.

I challenge other organizations in nuclear engineering to create and fulfill your own pledges. Be honest. Be bold. Be specific. 

Finally, I want to state in no uncertain terms that Black lives matter. We are in this fight for the long run and will continue to update on our progress.

—Todd Allen, Chair and Professor, Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, NERS



Resources for all:

Shut Down STEM

Particles for Justice

American Nuclear Society Diversity Resources

Concrete steps on on how to contribute to a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment in academia



U-M Resources:

6/12 at noon: LEAD: “I Can’t Breathe”—A Call to Action for Leaders in Higher Education

6/16 at 5:30pm: EnginTalks: The Unsilenced Voices of 2020

Perspective: Now is the moment. So what do we do? by Dean Gallimore

Help eradicate the virus of racism by Sara Pozzi

A call for authentic black engagement by Dr. Tony G. Reames

U-M Town Hall: Constructive Conversations for Societal Change

U-M Messages of Outrage and Hope

The University of Michigan chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers has put together this list of petitions to sign and organizations to support.

Students: Michigan Engineering CARE Center or U-M Counseling and Psychological Services

Faculty and staff: Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office

If you have a concern about our campus culture, please report it to the Campus Climate Support staff.