Member Spotlight: Mackenzie Warwick


  • BSE in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, minor in Physics from the University of Michigan, May 2020
  • MSE in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences with a concentration in Nuclear Materials, University of Michigan, anticipated May 2022
  • PhD in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, with a concentration in Nuclear Materials, University of Michigan, anticipated 2025


Work/Research Experience:

  • Student intern with the Fusion Safety Group at Idaho National Laboratory, May 2020 – Present
  • Studying the technical feasibility of isotopic-tailoring of alloys used in fission and fusion reactors for waste management purposes


Why did you choose to study nuclear engineering?

My reason for studying nuclear engineering is two-fold: I was in my seventh grade Japanese class when the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident happened. Learning the significance of nature within Japanese culture and the destruction that the tsunami, earthquake, and subsequent nuclear accident caused, I wanted to become fluent in Japanese and move to Japan to aid in the clean-up. Fast forward to high school when I became interested in clean and sustainable energy methods that would reduce the impacts of climate change, I realized I could pursue nuclear engineering and still keep my ties with Japan. In March 2019, I participated in a short-term experiential study abroad trip through The GREEN Program to Fukushima. During that trip, I realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The work I do now continues to give me those feelings, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

What do you hope to accomplish after you obtain your degree(s)?

I’m not really sure yet since that’s another 4-5 years away; however, I’m hoping that my current MSE/PhD research revolutionizes the way we [nuclear engineers] think about alloys used in fission and fusion reactors. A huge counterargument to nuclear energy is “what do we do with the waste?” and my project aims to reduce the waste produced in the first place. The harsh radiation environment poses activation and transmutation issues during operation, which ultimately contribute to structural/component intermediate and/or high-level waste By using my background in neutronics and materials, I’m hoping to make a case for isotopic-tailoring of current alloys, such that each component can be tailored for the neutron spectrum and environment it will experience during operation.

Why did you join U.S. Women in Nuclear?

In July 2019, I attended the U.S. WIN Conference in Chicago and had the best time. Every meal was an opportunity to talk with women in the nuclear industry. The conference helped me feel supported by all the people I had the chance to meet. I wanted to start a student chapter to showcase the benefits of U.S. WIN: a supportive industry backing, educational resources for nuclear outreach, and leadership preparation programs such as WAM and NEXT.

What is your favorite memory or accomplishment?

I think my favorite accomplishment has been participating in nuclear outreach over the past few years. Specifically, I enjoyed being selected to be an instructor for our department’s Glow Blue program, which partners with DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program) to teach 7th-9th grade students about nuclear engineering. I love being able to communicate all of the cool and interesting aspects of nuclear to all audiences, so the next logical step was to start my own program. I have partnered with department chair Todd Allen and the curriculum director of my home school district of Garden City, Michigan, to develop a Girls in STEM program, with a nuclear engineering focus, set to launch in spring of 2022.

Is there something about you that most people are surprised to hear?

I have 10 years of experience learning Japanese, and I’m hoping to pass the Japanese language proficiency test in the next year!