By Katie Mummah
Happy Women’s History Month! Each week during the month of March, one woman from the history of nuclear science and technology will be featured on the ANS Nuclear Cafe.
As a woman and a nuclear engineer myself, I am honored to have so many female role models to look up to. Many incredible female physicists and engineers blazed the path for me and the women around me to succeed, and we honor their legacy as we begin to build our own.
However, with nuclear engineering comprised of only about 11.5% women, I believe we should also push ourselves to do better and encourage more girls to enter this field. Sharing stories of women in nuclear, including the ones that will be posted on the ANS Nuclear Cafe throughout the month of March, is both a celebration of women’s history and inspiration for the future.
You probably know the story of Marie Curie, but do you know the story of Dr. Katharine “Kay” Way? Born in 1903, Katharine Way was a nuclear physicist who made significant contributions to the Manhattan Project and the field of nuclear data.
Dr. Way received a B.S. in physics from Columbia University in 1932 and earned a Ph.D. from University of North Carolina in 1938 for her dissertation on the Photoelectric cross section of the deuteron [2]. Her 1939 paper on the Liquid-Drop Model and Nuclear Moments noted instability in rapidly spinning cigar-shaped nuclei and came close to theorizing nuclear fission, according to her advisor.
She became an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in 1939. However, war soon broke out and in 1942 she joined the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago and became a part of the Manhattan Project. In Chicago and later at Oak Ridge, her work contributed to reactor design and she developed the Way-Wigner approximation

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