Samantha Wismer.

Samantha Wismer.


University of Maryland (UMD) doctoral student Samantha Wismer has been awarded a fellowship under the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP), becoming the second student in UMD’s reliability engineering program to receive the prestigious award.

The NEUP University Nuclear Leadership Program, designed to support future leaders in the nuclear energy field, will fund Wismer’s studies fully for the next three years as she assesses the risks involved in combining a hydrogen electrolyzer facility—that is, a facility that uses electrical power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas—with a nuclear power plant. 

The combination could provide a novel clean energy solution, but engineers must first be able to understand and mitigate any potential hazards to meet the rigorous regulatory requirements applied to anything on site at a nuclear power plant. To that end, Wismer will be conducting a quantitative risk assessment under the supervision of her advisor, Associate Professor Katrina Groth.

“I'll be evaluating an electrolyzer design, identifying failure modes of each component in the electrolyzer, and creating logic models to identify which sequences of events matter from a safety perspective—and which ones don’t ,” said Wismer, who earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh before embarking on her doctoral degree at Maryland.

“We want to get out in front of any potential safety issues involved in coupling hydrogen and nuclear systems–or find out there are no concerns–so that our findings and recommendations can be incorporated in the initial design phases,” she said.

In addition, Dr. Groth said, "it's important to avoid overreacting and wasting resources on changes that won’t actually make the system safer." 

Wismer is conducting her work at the Systems Risk and Reliability Analysis (SyRRA) Lab, which is directed by Groth. The lab’s 15-strong research team studies emerging safety, risk, reliability, and security issues associated with advanced energy systems.

In 2022, SyRRA Lab researcher and doctoral student Camille Levine was awarded an NEUP UNLP fellowship, becoming the first UMD student to receive the award, followed by Wismer a year later.

“I’m both proud and grateful to have been selected,” Wismer said.

Groth, who is also associate director for research at UMD’s Center for Risk and Reliability , said Wismer exemplifies the high caliber of students who are coming to UMD to build their careers in reliability engineering.. 

 “Developing innovative energy systems and ensuring their reliability is a front-burner issue both in the U.S. and globally,” Groth said. “The field–and the planet–stands to benefit as talented young engineers like Samantha contribute their creativity, drive, and passion for excellence.”


May 5, 2023

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“I'll be evaluating an electrolyzer design, identifying failure modes of each component in the electrolyzer, and creating logic models to identify which sequences of events matter from a safety perspectiveand which ones don’t."

Samantha Wismer, UMD doctoral student and NEUP University Nuclear Leadership Program fellowship winner.

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