Just wanted to say thanks for the article on Physics Faculty Emeritus Don Daavettila. I was fortunate to be a student in his Nuclear Engineering class my senior year in 1988-89. We spent a week at the University of Michigan using their nuclear reactor to complete some lab tests for the course. I didn’t go on to work in nuclear power, but his class was one of my all time favorites. When I explain the things we did in his class, such as measuring the output of a working nuclear reactor on the campus at the University of Michigan, most people don’t believe it. Thanks for setting the record straight and thanks to Professor Daavettila for providing a very unique experience at Michigan Tech.
-Kim Bylund (Warner)
Thanks for the note, Kim. He’s a special guy.
I am a graduate of the Nuclear Engineering program at Tech. Don was a great teacher and part of a group of faculty that included Gene Kosiancic, Wayne Lehto, and Dr. Tom Ellis. Nuclear engineering programs existed in various departments in a large number of universities at the time, including physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering. The programs were started by professionals who had connections with the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission. Dr. Makens had those kind of connections as did Dr. Heath who preceded Dr. Berry as the professor in charge of the freshman chemistry program.
The lab in Koenig Hall was interesting as Don mentioned. One of the experimental facilities was a “sigma pile” which was a large cube of graphite where a neutron source could be placed and the neutron flux measured at various distances from the source. The graphite actually came from the CP-1 reactor which was built under the stadium at Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. The lab also had an analog computer based reactor simulator and a Colbalt-60 gamma irradiator. The department also had a neutron generator which was set up in a lab in McNair Hall.
In the late 1960’s Nuclear Engineering was a great degree to have. I had 18 job offers when I graduated with my MS degree. Even today after retiring in 2010 I am working part time for the Department of Energy. I am also in the process of putting together the 2nd Edition of the Nuclear Engineering Handbook which was first published in 2009.
It would be great if several Nuclear Engineering alumni could get together with Don during the reunion this summer.
Ken Kok, “64
Professor Daavettila: I remember before there was a nuke program. Prof. Daavettila supported by the others mentioned in your article got this Chem Engineering student to focus in the area. I got my degree in 1974 in Chem. Eng. but remain in the nuclear industry, starting in submarines to this day. Thanks for the great background.