CLOSED: Research Assistant Opportunity (2016): Synthetic Image Generation for Nuclear Non-proliferation

[Updated: March 31, 2016]

The Computational Nuclear Engineering Research Group (CNERG) at UW Madison is currently working at the interface of international security policy and nuclear engineering on issues related to treaty verification for fissile material production, such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or a potential Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. We have developed the Cyclus fuel cycle simulator to model current and next-generation nuclear fuel cycles as part of the Consortium for Verification Technology. Cyclus is an agent-based, systems-level simulator that tracks discrete material flow through the entire fuel cycle, from mining through burnup in reactors to a repository.

We seek a research assistant to develop synthetic satellite images of nuclear facilities for monitoring and verification. Satellite images can provide information on material shipments, production and maintenance staffing, physical and environmental impact, etc. Synthetic images will be designed with changeable features at different times that are correlated with other fuel cycle signals. These images will be used in Cyclus to study the clandestine material diversion from declared fuel cycles. Due to funding restrictions, only US citizens can be considered.


  • Masters or PhD student in Nuclear Engineering, Computer Science, Physics, Math, Astronomy, Atmospheric Science, Geography or related field
  • Interest in international security and nuclear non-proliferation OR
  • Experience with image processing and analysis
  • Some programming experience desired

Specific Duties

  • Research appropriate parameters and specifications to make simplified but representative fake satellite images (resolution, image size, variety of information)
  • Define the properties of relevant image features (such as truck shape/size, etc)
  • Write a program in Python that uses a table of features and positions to create fake images. Program will be flexible/extensible for additional features in the future.

To be considered for a Research Assistant position (50% plus tuition remission), please send a letter of interest, resume, and unofficial transcript to Paul Wilson or Meghan McGarry at cnerg-cvt _at_