Published: Feb. 27, 2020 By

Devin Lindsey and 3 other students chat with U.S. Navy Commander Robert “Mac” McFarlin during his visit to CU Engineering.

Devin Lindsey, left, and three other students chat with U.S. Navy Commander Robert “Mac” McFarlin during his visit to CU Engineering. 

When Devin Lindsey came to CU Boulder as an environmental engineering major three years ago, he didn’t expect to be leaving as a nuclear reactor engineer for the U.S. Navy.

Lindsey, a junior from Littleton, Colorado, was recently accepted to the highly competitive Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program, or NUPOC for short. He’s the third approved candidate from the College of Engineering and Applied Science in the past two years.

NUPOC provides qualified students a direct pipeline into service as Navy officers, with salary and benefits for up to two-and-a-half years while they’re completing their degrees. After graduation, participants can serve at sea on nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers or on land as nuclear instructors and engineers.

While many who apply for the NUPOC program have been involved in ROTC, it was purely by chance that Lindsey learned about it.

Last year, he was helping to set up a tabling event for Engineers in Action in the Engineering Center lobby. A team of Navy recruiters was vacating the table, and Lindsey ended up chatting with them and taking a flyer for NUPOC.

He said he’s always been interested in nuclear power, and would often check out the latest news on particle physics or next-generation reactors. He also took a course on radiation when he studied abroad last semester in Singapore.

“It’s such a big idea, but there’s so much bias around it,” Lindsey said. “As an environmental engineer, you can definitely see where it would have a place in future power grids.”

After speaking with family friends who’d served in the military and talking to his family about his grandfather’s service, he decided to take the leap.

The application process was very rigorous, including lots of paperwork, technical interviews and a multi-day visit to Washington, D.C., for in-person interviews, but Lindsey said he actually ended up enjoying it.

“It was the first real-world opportunity to put all of these things I’ve learned to the test,” he said.

After he graduates next spring, Lindsey will commission as an officer. He’ll head back to D.C. for officer development training, reactor engineering school and tours of Navy nuclear facilities before taking his post at a Navy nuclear base. He’ll serve for five years before getting the opportunity to either stay on in a civilian capacity or start a new adventure.

“It’s not what I came to college thinking I was going to do, but with nuclear there’s so much left to learn about it,” Lindsey said. “I’m really excited.”