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Idaho State's Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar reflects on service as American Nuclear Society president during pandemic

October 22, 2020

Dunzik-Gougar touts Discovery Education’s ‘Navigating Nuclear’ curriculum

Idaho State's Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar reflects on service as American Nuclear Society president during pandemic
Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar masked up at the dedication ceremony held Oct. 20 for ISU's new console for its educational nuclear reactor.

POCATELLO – Idaho State University’s Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar, current American Nuclear Society president, has had to change how that office operates during the coronavirus pandemic.

When she was president-elect last year, Dunzik-Gougar – associate dean for the ISU College of Science and Engineering and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies and an associate professor of nuclear engineering – envisioned a lot of face-to-face time traveling to meet members of other local sections of the 10,000-member society once she became president in June. Also, generally, the ANS president travels to Vienna, Austria, in September to attend the annual conference of the International Atomic Nuclear Agency. However, the pandemic put a halt to her travel plans.

Head shot of Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar“I became president during the time of Covid pandemic, which has drastically changed the nature of what I had planned and intended,” said Dunzik-Gougar, who had a chance to talk about her role during American Nuclear Science Week Oct. 18-24. “Travel, obviously, hasn’t been possible. I’ve had to be creative, like I think everybody is being creative right now, to make the most of the situation. It has definitely been a good experience.”

Although she hasn’t been able to travel to visit other local sections of the ANS, ironically, during her term as president she will likely reach more of them through virtual meetings via Zoom and similar platforms.

“I can probably reach more local sections than any previous president because I can just do it all from home,” she said. “I  don’t have to travel and I can still  really get my message out there to support their local efforts to the extent I can remotely.”

She noted that the ANS, like many professional societies, is going through significant organizational changes because of a decline in membership and revenues. Dunzik-Gougar has embraced dealing with those problems.

“The question is, ‘Is our  mode of operation sustainable?,' which it hasn’t been, so I have the opportunity to help the organization change to serve its members better and operate in a stable manner and, meanwhile, to get the good word of nuclear out there.”

One ANS project she is very excited about is the organization’s work with the U.S. Department of Energy and Discovery Education to help create the  “Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World” K-12 curriculum. The ANS and the Department of Energy have helped produce and funded the creation of these educational materials so they are free for use by classrooms throughout the United States. Generally, Discovery Education produces school materials on a fee-based system.

“One of my favorite projects I’ve been working on for American Nuclear Society for several years now is working with Discovery Education and the U.S. Department of Energy to create K-12 curriculum materials,” Dunzik-Gougar said. “The ANS is providing the intellectual content and the DOE is  providing a lot of funding. Discovery Education is a professional entity that creates educational materials. They are in about 50 percent of classrooms in the U.S. We are working together with all of our expertise to develop  materials.”

These partners have created middle and high school curriculum materials and the elementary education materials are set to be released during Nuclear Science Week.

This summer, as part of her duties, Dunzik-Gougar was filmed by Discovery Education in the ISU Department of Nuclear Engineering Laboratory nuclear reactor bay. Each of the different levels of curriculum as basic content that includes lesson plans, worksheets, a virtual field trip and also a  video that helps the teachers with the content.

“So the video I was filming was to help the teachers with the high school content, but that was just a one-off thing,” she said. “I have been working as one of the ANS members on the project for the last several years to develop the content of the lessons. “Hey, we have K-12 nuclear science educational material that is out there and available.”

For more information on the “Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World’ series and how to sign up to use it, visit www.navigatingnuclear.com.

Established in 1954, ANS is an international professional organization of engineers and scientists devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. It's more than 10,000 members represent government, academia, research laboratories, medical facilities and private industry.

For more information on the ANS, visit www.ans.org.

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