A nuclear family: ANS student
chapter builds community
of the college's ANS student chapter pictured with Bucky Badger
at the Pik-Nuke picnic. (Larger
a glistening sun rose over the UW-Madison engineering campus on a summer
Friday morning, latecomers straggled into Mickie’s Dairy Bar.
By 7 a.m., 11 members of the UW-Madison chapter of the American
Nuclear Society (ANS) had settled onto red vinyl stools in the corner
tables of the breakfast diner. As Sadie the waitress kep the coffee
cups brimming, students and faculty members slipped into casual conversation
and occasional gossip.
Fueled by “scramblers”
The tradition of gathering at Mickie’s on Friday mornings dates
back 15 years. The ANS faculty advisor, Engineering Physics Assistant
Wilson, says he started coming to Mickie’s as a graduate student
in 1992 for the infamous “scramblers,” which are a mix of
fried potatoes, eggs, meat, gravy and cheese that current ANS members
say they can handle—as long as they lie down afterward.
The Friday breakfast club is only one of several frequent gatherings
for the highly active chapter. ANS boasts national recognition as the
two-time winner of the national ANS Glasstone Award for an outstanding
The UW-Madison nuclear engineering program, and the nuclear field in
general, is smaller than other types of engineering, says chapter president
Jeremy Roberts, a fifth-year nuclear engineering undergraduate. The
result, he says, is a close-knit community for the nearly 60 active
members of ANS.
Connections among those ANS members will carry into the professional
world, says public information officer Brian Kiedrowski, a nuclear engineering
graduate student. “Your friends will become your colleagues, and
you need these colleagues in a field like nuclear,” he says.
Kiedrowski says at the heart of ANS is a cause that distinguishes it
from similar engineering organizations in other departments. “There
is a lot of public misunderstanding about nuclear engineering, and our
goal is to bring understanding of its role in society,” he says.
“We want to tell people what we do.”
The networking component of ANS is on full display at its larger social
gatherings, such as the Pik-Nuke (above), a picnic for ANS members,
faculty and friends held each semester.
Despite chilly weather, a sizeable crowd walked almost two miles from
the UW-Madison campus to a local park for the fall 2007 Pik-Nuke. Brats,
burgers and a visit with Bucky Badger kept spirits of the nearly 100
attendees higher than the 50 degree weather.
Roberts describes the connection between ANS social activities and the
group’s sense of community as a “chicken and the egg”
cycle: The activities bolster the community, but there is also an inherently
strong community of members who like to do activities together.
ANS members use social events as rewards and incentives for active membership
in the group, which requires participation in public outreach, ANS service,
community service and professional development, says Wilson.
The solid, involved ANS community encourages members to participate
in outreach events such as Boy Scout badge workshops and high school
presentations, says Kiedrowski.
For ANS, community service and social events often blend together for
charitable causes. During National Engineers Week, casually known as
E-week, ANS and Mickie’s Dairy Bar host a scrambler-eating competition
for campus student organizations. ANS wins every year, according to
communications officer Amy Wiersma, a nuclear engineering undergraduate
student. “We have year-round training, so of course we dominate,”
Together, Mickie’s and ANS donate $1 (50 cents each) for every
scrambler eaten during E-week to the American Heart Association.
Students who take on leadership roles in ANS have an opportunity to
gain valuable experience, especially in managing a budget, says Wilson.
“I’ve seen a lot of students mature over the years,”
he says. “Employers appreciate if you can demonstrate actual contributions
to a student organization.”
Roberts agrees his leadership in ANS has been important and says it
has brought a sense of organization to his scatter-brained nature. “I’ve
learned to time-manage and delegate—and that you can’t do
everything,” he says.
The current group of ANS student leaders is above average in dedication
and in the attitude they bring to their respective roles, says Wilson.
“The leaders are who make it all happen and keep people interested
in staying involved,” he says.
He says the ANS group has become more inclusive since his graduate school
days. An increase in the number of non-elected positions, which give
a student responsibility to organize a single event or activity, has
provided even more opportunities for active members to gain leadership
Multiple ANS members say an important element to the group is the combination
of work and play. The small nuclear engineering major means that students
see each other frequently in classes—and, says Roberts, one of
the most important functions of ANS activities is to give nuclear students
a way to interact casually, outside of class.
Overall, the current ANS leaders are working to carry on the group’s
tradition of involvement. “I just hope we can continue to mimic
the success of recent years,” Roberts says. “I have faith
in the people around me that we can do just that..”