Chautauqua Women's Club

Chautauqua In-Depth


Leslie Dewan


Positioned at the forefront of the nuclear technology development renaissance, engineer and environmentalist Leslie Dewan is among the wave of young engineers adapting and improving reactor designs from the earliest days of the industry in order to solve modern problems. With a classmate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dewan created and served as CEO for Transatomic Power, reimagining a 1960s design for a molten salt reactor — coming inches from solving the two biggest problems with nuclear energy: the risk of meltdown from conventional reactors and the proliferation of nuclear waste. After open-sourcing Transatomic’s data, Dewan pivoted to a bigger obstacle facing nuclear energy as a critical element of a carbon-neutral future: our resistance to it. Now her startup RadiantNano is developing next-generation radiation detectors with applications in national security, clean energy production and medical diagnostics.

A World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Dewan currently serves on the National Academy of Engineering’s study on “Laying the Foundation for New and Advanced Nuclear Reactors in the United States.” She has been named a TIME Magazine “30 People Under 30 Changing the World,” an MIT Technology Review “Innovator Under 35,” and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

Dewan earned a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT, where she also earned S.B. degrees in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering. The recipient of an MIT Presidential Fellowship, she is the youngest person ever to serve on MIT’s Board of Trustees.