You are here



B.S. Lanzhou University, Experimental Nuclear Physics, 1994

MS. CIAE, Nuclear & Particle Physics, 2002

PhD. University of Texas at Austin, Nuclear and Radiological enigeering, 2007


Director, OSU Nuclear Reactor Laboratory (OSU-NRL), 2016 - Present

Professor, The Ohio State University, 2018 - Present

Associate Professor, The Ohio State University, 2015 - 2018

Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University, 2009 - 2015

Director, Nuclear Aanlysis and Radiation Sensor (NARS) Lab, The Ohio State University, 2009 - present

Research Associate, Center for Neutron Research, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2007 - 2009

Research Associate, Positron Emission Tomography lab, Harvard Medical School, 2007


  • ANS Graduate Student Design Competition Finalist (Advisor), 2015
  • Lumley Research Award, 2015
  • Lumley Research Award, 2013
  • Lumley Interdisciplinary Research Award, 2012
  • Defense Threat Reduction Agency Young Investigator Award, 2011
  • German Academic Exchange Service Fellow (declined), 2003
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Fellow, 2002
  • Excellent Thesis Award, CIAE, 2002


Research Areas:


  • Sensor and instrumentation
  • Radiation measurement methods (FPGA)
  • Radiation effects and survivability
  • Nuclear voltaic battery
  • Reactor and in-pile instrumentation

  • Neutron analytical techniques (NDP, PGAA, and neutron radiography/tomography)

  • Modeling and simulation of ionizing radiation interactions with materials 

Course Taught:

NE5742: Nuclear Radiation and Their Measurement
NE4506: Undergraduate Nuclear Engineering Lab
NE6725: Nuclear Reactor Lab
NE6708: Nuclear Reactor Physics
NE4505: Introduction to Nuclear Science and Engineering
NE6766: Nuclear Engineering Design
NE880.08: Advanced Nuclear Instrumentation and Control


  • American Nuclear Society (ANS), since 2004
  • IEEE Nuclear Science and Plasma Society (Senior Member), since 2009
  • The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, since 2004
  • ASEE, since 2012
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), since 2014
  • Institute of Nuclear Materials and Management (IMMM), 2011-2012

Editorial Board

Associate Editor, IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science

Current funded and completed projects

  • Solar Panel for Prompt Detection and Identification of Nuclear Detonations, DTRA, 2019
  • Microelectronics and sensor, Consortium for Enabling Technologies and Innovation, Georgia Tech/NNSA, 2019
  • Wide bandgap semiconductor betavoltaic powered sensor controller, NSF SBIR PHASE I /AwareAbility Technologies LLC, 2017-2018
  • Wide bandgap semiconductor betavoltaic powered sensor controller, NSF SBIR PHASE II /AwareAbility Technologies LLC, 2019
  • Monitoring of actinide concentrations in molten LiCl-KCl salt using alpha spectroscopy, DOE, 10/01/2015-12/31/2018
  • Intelligent III-V GaN based neutron flux detector array, DOE SBIR/AwareAbility Technologies LLC, 2018-2019
  • In-pile heating experiment in support of in-core/near-core irradiation of AlN sensor, DOE/NSUF, 2019
  • On the radiation sensitivity and failure mechanism of critical radiation- hardened robotic components, DTRA, 12/03/2012-2/28/2018
  • Near-core irradiation of high temperature fission chamber, Oak Ridge National Lab, 2016-2018
  • Automated multi-column actinide separation system (AMCASS) equipment testing, modification, and method development, LANL, 9/01/2016-08/31/2017
  • Evaluation of neutron imaging scintillators and configurations, LLNL, 2016
  • High efficiency, low-cost nanocomposite radiation detector, DTRA, 2014
  • Molten salt mass determination in pyro-processing, Idaho National Lab, 5/1/2016-9/30/2018
  • A NEUP reactor upgrade request for replacement and enhancement of the control-rod drive system for the Ohio State University research reactor, DOE/NEUP, 9/01/2016-08/31/2017
  • Equipment for Education, Training, and Research in Advanced Instrumentation and Control at The Ohio State University, DOE/NEUP
  • A High Temperature-tolerant and Radiation-resistant In-core Neutron Sensor for Advanced Reactors, DOE/NEUP, 9/01/2011 – 8/31//2014
  • An Integrated Upgrade of Scientific Equipment for Strengthening the Research and Education in Nuclear Energy at the Ohio State University, DOE/NEUP, 1/01/2012 – 12/31/2013
  • Gadolinium-Based GaN for Neutron Detection with Gamma Discrimination, DTRA, 5/01/2011 - 9/30/2013
  • In-situ Neutron Depth Profiling of Lithium Ion Battery Materials for Improved Electrochemical Performance and Aging Models, DOE, 10/01/2011-09/30/2016


Short Bio:

Dr. Lei R. Cao is Professor in the Nuclear Engineering Program at The Ohio State University (OSU) and the Director of OSU-Nuclear Reactor Lab. Dr. Cao received his BS in Experimental Nuclear Physics from Lanzhou University in 1994, MS degree in Nuclear and Particle Physics in 2002, and PhD degree in Nuclear and Radiation Engineering Program, the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University of Texas at Austin in 2007. Prior to joining OSU, Dr. Cao was a research associate at the Center for Neutron Research, U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and also received a short-term training at the Positron Emission Tomography Laboratory at Harvard Medical School. At OSU, Dr. Cao founded the Nuclear Analysis and Radiation Sensor laboratory (NARS) in 2010.  

Dr. Cao's major research interests focus on applied nuclear physics and radiation science, including nuclear instrumentation and radiation detection, sensor development, radiation effects, and nuclear methods (PGAA, NDP, neutron radiography/tomography) for advanced materials characterization. Dr. Cao has published 110+ peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings. Dr. Cao is the Chair (2015-2016) of Isotope and Radiation Division at the American Nuclear Society (ANS) and is also on the technical committee of two international conferences (MARC) in his research field. He received a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Young Investigator Award in 2011, an OSU Lumley Interdisciplinary Research Award in 2012, and Lumley Research Awards in 2013 and 2016. Dr. Cao also serves as Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science.