Nuclear Engineer
Nuclear Engineer


Jeff Katalenich is a research scientist and engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). His interests and experiences are broad but focus primarily on national security, material processing, and space nuclear power. He joined PNNL in 2014 as a Linus Pauling Postdoctoral Fellow.

While earning his mechanical engineering degree, Katalenich was the project manager of an Air Force Research Laboratory-sponsored university satellite project, performing the initial work on a vehicle that launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy in June 2019 from Cape Canaveral. He received both a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship to fund his graduate studies.

For his PhD thesis, Katalenich conducted experimental research that involved creating an apparatus to make plutonium fuels (using cerium surrogates) using a modified sol-gel process. In 2017, he demonstrated the production of plutonium-238 dioxide sol-gel microspheres for space heat and power sources.

In 2021, Katalenich received PNNL’s Ronald Brodzinski Award for Early Career Exceptional Achievement based on his sol-gel research. He has managed several complex projects with a variety of safety, security, and technical risks. Katalenich also served as the technical program chair for the American Nuclear Society’s annual Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space Conference in 2017 and 2019.

Research Interest

  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Radioisotopes
  • Sol-Gel


  • PhD in Nuclear Engineering, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  • MS in Engineering, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  • BS in Mechanical Engineering, Michigan Technological University

Affiliations and Professional Service

  • Independent review team member for NASA’s Space Nuclear Propulsion Project (2022-present)
  • Technical Program Chair – Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space 2019 Conference (2017-2019)
  • Executive Committee Member – American Nuclear Society Aerospace Nuclear Science and Technology Division (2017-2019)
  • Cognizant space manager for a radiological research laboratory (2016-present)
  • Member – American Nuclear Society (2007-present)

Awards and Recognitions

  • PNNL Outstanding Performance Awards (2022, 2021, and 2017)
  • PNNL Ronald L. Brodzinski Award for Early Career Exceptional Achievement (2021)
  • National Nuclear Security Administration Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Consortium for Monitoring, Verification, and Technology – National Laboratory Scientist Fellowship (2020)
  • PNNL Linus Pauling Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014)
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (2009)
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (2009)
  • Michigan Technological University Mechanical Engineering Department Scholar (2008)
  • Department of Homeland Security Scholarship (2007)


  • Patent: J. A. Katalenich et al., U.S. Patent 10,685,757 B2: “Nuclear Reactor Assemblies, Nuclear Reactor Target Assemblies, and Nuclear Reactor Methods,” June 16, 2020. Licensed.