Rising star alumnus spotlight: Joseph Orellana

Joseph Orellana (BS-NE ‘16 & MS-ME ’19) is currently part of the 50th ANS/AAAS Science and Technology Congressional Fellows. Prior to being a fellow, Orellana worked at GE-Hitatchi. Graduate of their Edison Engineering Development Program, he served in several roles including Lead Transient Analysis Engineer before becoming a fellow.

We had a chance to ask Joseph Orellana about his experiences at and since NC State.

Q: “What motivated you to serve as a AAAS Congressional Fellow?”

Several nuclear bills have passed over the last five years that have created enormous momentum for the nuclear industry with support for important next-gen projects like the Versatile Test Reactor, TerraPower’s sodium-cooled fast reactor, and X-Energy’s pebble bed reactor, among many other small modular reactors.  Seeing the level of impact that legislation has on the nuclear industry motivated me to pursue the AAAS Congressional Fellowship to see firsthand how the “sausage is made” and to learn how I could help initiate change to address longstanding issues like spent fuel disposal.

Q: “What advice would you give nuclear engineering students interested in pursuing a career in industry? Policymaking?”

Science communication is an incredibly invaluable skill for the nuclear engineers of tomorrow as the U.S. moves to a greener electrical grid and as there are an increasing number of people more interested in understanding how nuclear power works.  For students interested in policymaking, I highly recommend applying for the Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation for a one-week policy crash course in D.C.!

Q: “How did Nuclear Engineering at NC State prepare you for your career?”

NC State’s NE program prepared me by first helping me learn the technical foundation I needed to succeed in every part of my career so far, ranging from plant safety analysis to being able to describe the high-level benefits between a fast reactor and your typical BWR or PWR to policymakers.  And second, by introducing me to the Wolfpack community of colleagues and mentors who all shared their knowledge and wisdom with me throughout the years. The number of times I’ve run into an NC State nuclear alum or faculty throughout the last several years, often in unexpected places, is pretty crazy!