In retrospect, Collin Duffley ’19, ’21 wonders why he ever considered studying nuclear engineering and playing Division I baseball at any other school besides UMass Lowell.
“It had everything I wanted in terms of the academics, the level I wanted to play, and also being relatively near home,” the Manchester, New Hampshire, native says. “Where else would I really want to go?”
The decision paid off.
Just weeks after completing his master’s degree in nuclear engineering, Duffley was hired as a physicist at Symetrica, a United Kingdom-based company (with an office in Westford, Massachusetts) that makes radiation detection products.
While he’s excited to get started on his career, Duffley hasn’t closed the door completely on his baseball playing days.
“There’s certainly more that I’m capable of, so it would be interesting to see what I could do,” says Duffley, a 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher who led the River Hawks his sophomore year with a 5-3 record and 2.74 ERA. He was named to the America East All-Conference Second Team after leading the league in strikeouts (71) and opposing batting average (.202).
But Duffley suffered an elbow injury early in his junior year. After undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery and sitting out the entire 2019 season, he returned to the mound as a graduate student in 2020 — only to have that season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There were a lot of starts and stops,” says Duffley, who returned to pitch the entire 2021 season, going 3-8 with a 5.45 ERA. The highlight came at the University of Maine, where he threw a complete-game two-hitter in a 1-0 UML win.
“I wanted to come back and compete at this level. It’s something I worked for for a very long time,” he says. “Being able to just play again, and not worry about my health, is all I could have asked for.”
Duffley’s interest in nuclear engineering began in high school, where he heard several lectures on the topic.
“When you think about how we have these atoms, and we find a way to make energy at that level, that’s one of the most interesting things to me,” says Duffley, who earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering with a nuclear engineering option.
As part of his master’s program, Duffley studied autonomous and remote operations for nuclear reactors. Through UML’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, he was part of a team that built a model to test remote systems and study ways to protect them from cyberattacks.
“We provided a little nuclear context to these cybersecurity-related systems,” says Duffley, who was able to work with his advisor and mentor, Prof. Sukesh Aghara, director of the nuclear engineering program.
While he acknowledges that nuclear energy can be a politically fraught topic, Duffley says he’d be interested in working on a team “that supports and develops that as part of our grid in the future.”
That is, of course, if he’s not busy working on the mound for a professional baseball team instead.