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Professor Edward Larsen retires from NERS after 33-year career in nuclear engineering

Professor Larsen’s research has focused on the development of advanced algorithms for the mathematical analysis and computational simulation of problems associated with the interaction of radiation with matter.| Short Read
EnlargeProfessor Edward Larsen
IMAGE:  Professor Edward Larsen

Professor Edward Larsen officially retired from Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences (NERS) active faculty status in May of 2019. He received his B.S. (1966) and Ph.D. (1971) degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He joined the New York University faculty as an assistant professor in 1971 and the University of Delaware faculty as an associate professor in 1976. He became a staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1977.

Larsen’s colleague, Professor William Martin, gives himself some of the credit for Larsen’s becoming a faculty member at Michigan. They were both attending a transport conference in Montecatini (Italy) in 1985 when they ran into each other in what Martin described as “the serving line at the grandest buffet dinner I have ever seen!” He asked Larsen to consider applying for an open faculty slot at Michigan. A short time later, Larsen joined the U-M faculty as a professor in 1986 and the two would go on to work together for over 33 years.

EnlargeEdward Larsen, William Martin, and Clint Ballinger in Yosemite National Park.
IMAGE:  Edward Larsen, William Martin, and Clint Ballinger in Yosemite National Park.

In the early 1990’s, Larsen and Martin traveled to Yosemite with several former Ph.D. students and hiked Half Dome, including the notoriously difficult last 1500 feet using the cables.

Larsen’s research has focused on the development of advanced algorithms for the mathematical analysis and computational simulation of problems associated with the interaction of radiation with matter (particle transport). Much of his analytical work involved the use of asymptotic expansions, to more precisely describe the relationship between transport theory and approximate diffusion theories. His computational work has led to more accurate discretization methods for deterministic transport calculations, more efficient and robust methods for accelerating the iterative convergence of deterministic calculations, and more efficient hybrid Monte Carlo/deterministic methods. His work has been utilized in modern computer codes that simulate practical nuclear reactors as well as general radiation transport problems.

Enlarge
IMAGE:  Larsen in the mid–late 1980's.

Larsen has co-authored over 350 scholarly papers and graduated 42 Ph.D. students, all from U-M. He was elected a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) in 1988 and has received several of the most prestigious awards in the international nuclear community, including the E.O. Lawrence Award of the U.S. Department of Energy (1994), the ANS Arthur Holly Compton Award (1996), and the ANS Eugene P. Wigner Reactor Physicist Award (2009).

Chair Todd Allen recalls, “As a graduate student, I went without an appointment to discuss course content with Ed Larsen for a course he was teaching. At first he seemed (to me) unhappy that I was looking for his time outside of official office hours. When he understood I had taken time to read the text and struggle with the concept, he was glad to help me. It was a great lesson. A faculty member would take the time for me if I had tried to first learn myself.”

If you’d like to pay tribute to Professor Larsen, please donate to the Edward W. Larsen Tribute Fund. This endowment fund encourages student participation in mathematical and computational science programs for nuclear science applications that combine nuclear engineering and radiological sciences with research in other scientific disciplines.

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Andrew Denniston, Engineering Physics BSE Student, Paul Campbell, NERS PhD Student, and Trevor Casey, NERS BSE Student, work on the Michigan Accelerator for Inductive Z-Pinch Experiments (MAIZE) in the Plasma, Pulsed Power, and Microwave Laboratory (PPML) in the NAME Building on North Campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI on May 4, 2017. Photo: Joseph Xu/Senior Multimedia Content Producer, University of Michigan - College of Engineering

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Professor Edward Larsen
Edward Larsen, William Martin, and Clint Ballinger in Yosemite National Park.
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