The researchers, engineers, and technologists at GE Research who help see, move, and create the future come from varying backgrounds with varying experiences. While no two paths are the same, there is one common thread – a love for science. Why Science? explores where our employees’ paths began – when and how their love for science was born. For some it was a favorite teacher; for others science runs in the family.
In this article we’re talking with Andrew Hoffman, a lead scientist with GE Research’s Materials Behavior team in Niskayuna, NY. Andrew joined GE in 2020 shortly after earning his PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology. He’s currently operating at the intersection of nuclear energy and materials science as a member of GE Research’s accident tolerant nuclear fuels project team. Working in concert with Global Nuclear Fuel and three National Labs (Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Idaho), the team is developing a new material for commercial nuclear fuel rods (cladding) that offers increased oxidation resistance and can retrofit existing reactor designs. Read more about the Department of Energy (DOE) funded project here.
Andrew present day (left) and many years ago with his younger brother and mother (right)
Additionally, Andrew is leading the GE team that’s developing a new inspection technique to encourage the recycling of fuel for advanced nuclear reactor concepts coming online. Called Resonance Absorption Densitometry for Materials Assay Security Safeguard (RADMASS), the technique would make nuclear power a more attractive carbon-free energy solution. Read more about the ARPE-E funded project here.
Hey Andrew… Why Science?
“I grew up with parents who encouraged and supported my education. My dad came from an abusive home and was kicked out at 17. My mom spent much of her childhood living in a 1-car garage in an Australian immigrant camp. Despite their many challenges, they both persevered, earned scientific degrees, and had successful careers. My parents emphasized education because they knew it would provide me and my siblings with a better life.
When I was little, I remember my mom sitting down with me, before the internet, and looking through encyclopedias to find answers to the questions I had. We had test tubes from small science kits, and I would imagine myself pouring chemicals from test tubes and beakers. At the age of six, I knew I wanted at least one PhD and three master’s degrees (a little too ambitious… I have a BS, MS, and PhD).
I was lucky to have that passion and direction in my life. I started college as a physics major but switched to computer science, then chemistry, then IT, then back to physics. In graduate school, I pivoted from physics to nuclear engineering, then found a passion in materials science. My long and scattered journey has taught me that it’s never too late to pivot and that there’s always something greater on the other side of your struggles. Because of the support I had, I view it as both my honor and my obligation to provide the world and our generation’s children with a better future, which is what we are doing every day at GE Research.”