The Labs That Go Boom: How to Run a Nuclear Reactor

And how to mutate plant seeds using radiation

Reed College Nuclear Reactor

Students stand above the water-filled pool that houses Reed College’s 250-kilowatt research nuclear reactor. The blue glow around the reactor is Cherenkov radiation.John B. Carnett

This month, as part of our special on the future of education, PopSci_ presents 10 labs where students do serious research (and career training) by blowing stuff up._

Lab: Reed College
Career: Reactor physicist, nuclear engineer, medical physicist

The Reed Research Reactor is the only program in the country where undergraduate students oversee the day-to-day operations of a working nuclear reactor. In addition to learning about reactor safety and physics, students pursue independent research projects, such as irradiating plant seeds to induce genetic mutations.

More recently, students have begun studying a species of bacteria, Pseudomonas fluorescens, that grow directly on the reactor core.