$100K nuclear engineering alumnus gift supports reactor licensing program

Two former nuclear reactor operator interns work in the control room of the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor in 2015. Credit: Penn State College of Engineering / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Don and Julie Moul, Penn State has been the touchstone in their lives, the place that feels most like home amidst career changes and moves.  

Don, a 1987 nuclear engineering alumnus, said his love for Penn State and experiences as an undergraduate student inspired him and his wife, Julie, to give to the Penn State Radiation Science and Engineering Center (RSEC).  

Known as the Moul Family Fund for Reactor Operator Internships, Don and Julie’s $100,000 endowment will allow undergraduate and graduate nuclear engineering students to earn their federal nuclear operator license through a yearlong training program and exam — all at no cost.  

“We were seeking a way to give back to the University, and we wanted something that was tied intimately to our lives,” Don said. “And I strongly believe the reactor internship gives students an opportunity to learn practically what is involved in being a reactor operator, knowledge that is crucial before they start their careers in industry.” 

Julie, a 1989 Schreyer Honors College and industrial organizational psychology alumna, said the gift allowed the duo to advance their involvement with the University. 

“Don has volunteered on the Industrial and Professional Advisory Council for mechanical and nuclear engineering, and I volunteer every year as part of the alumni admissions program,” Julie said. “But this gift allowed us to increase our involvement in a new way.” 

For Don, being exposed to the Penn State Breazeale Reactor as an undergraduate in labs and classes interested him enough to go on to a career in nuclear engineering operations. Currently, he serves as the executive vice president for the nuclear division and chief nuclear officer at Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc.  

“Not that many universities have a nuclear reactor program, which makes Penn State’s unique,” Don said. “In my opinion, getting an operator license while still in school, using a specific track that you can choose, is visionary.” 

Undergraduate engineering students interested in nuclear reactors can start training as early as their first year at Penn State, and immediately get hands-on experience at the reactor facility, according to Candace Davison, licensed senior reactor operator and assistant director for education and outreach at RSEC. 

“Students are theoretically and practically trained to operate the reactor and the auxiliary systems and safely work with radioactive materials,” Davison said. “And after one year of training, they can take the test to get their operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, right at Penn State. That in turn makes them more knowledgeable and attractive to employers after graduation.” 

The Moul Family gift is a legacy that will continue to impact students for decades to come, according to Kenan Ünlü, director of RSEC and professor of nuclear engineering.

“The reactor internship helps solidify concepts students learn in a classroom and gives them a full understanding of the procedures and regulations required to safely operate a reactor,” Ünlü said. “I know students in the generations to come will be positively affected by the Mouls’ generosity.” 

This gift will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated March 25, 2021