On Wednesday, September 15, Nicholas Cicchetti, a second-year Ph.D. student in radiochemistry at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, presented "Plutonium and Paperwork: A Day in the Lab as a Nuclear Chemist." In this talk, he shared his experience of working in a nuclear laboratory, his current research, and how his career path evolved.
Before beginning his doctorate in radiochemistry, Cicchetti studied chemical engineering at Tufts University, and he then worked in the Boston area as a materials scientist, developing transparent ceramics for use as radiation detectors in x-ray and CT scanners. In his research at the University of Nevada, Cicchetti seeks to better understand the behavior of plutonium in problematic nuclear waste left over from U.S. weapons production during the Cold War, so that it can be safely treated and disposed of.
Cicchetti discussed the pros and cons of working in radiochemistry, a specialized field focusing on the chemistry of radioactive elements such as uranium and plutonium. He also gave students a sense of the day-to-day life of a doctoral student. "It requires a lot of multitasking," said Cicchetti, who explained that his responsibilities include doing hands-on lab work and analyzing the results, writing papers, delivering presentations, publishing the results, taking classes, and teaching undergraduates.
Cicchetti encouraged students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. to carefully consider the decision: "You want to really make sure that it's something you're interested in and that you are excited to spend five years of your life working on." Great advice for our juniors and seniors as they look ahead to their years of higher education!