Scott Canby

Drawn To The Sea – And To The Field of Nuclear Engineering
LT Dana Scott Canby, Nuclear Officer, USN

“I remember coming home from Prototype (Nuclear Power Training Unit) one day. I called my parents, and they asked, 'What’d you do today?' I said, 'Well, I brought a reactor critical this morning.' They were just blown away that we did that as students.”
— LT Dana Scott Canby, Nuclear Officer, USN

Dana Scott Canby entered the Naval Academy with thoughts of becoming a surgeon. By the time he graduated in 2006, his chemistry degree was destined to prepare him for a career managing delicate operations of a different kind – those of the nuclear-powered variety.

“I found myself drawn to the seagoing aspect of the Navy, and I was interested in becoming a Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer so I could go to sea while serving my country,” he explains.

After completing his initial sea tour aboard a conventionally powered cruiser and earning his Surface Warfare qualification, he began his nuclear training at Naval Nuclear Power School in Charleston, S.C.

“The biggest thing about Nuke Power School is how fast the information comes,” he says. “And the Nuclear Navy is very specific on how you apply it. It’s a good introduction because you realize that there’s always more information to be had.”

At Nuclear Training Power Unit (Prototype), LT Canby found his education and training further intensified. “Prototype teaches some very important lessons on the integrity that has to be present in the program to make it all work. Here, we get to take all that theoretical knowledge and see how it’s actually applied.”

During his second sea tour – aboard the nuclear-powered USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) – LT Canby had the opportunity to put what he’d learned into a greater operational context. Bringing up power, adjusting temperature and doing whatever else needs to be done to get such a massive ship where it needs to go…he describes it all as a big, well-orchestrated dance. And one that he loves to be part of.

“The technology that I got to handle as a 22- to 27-year-old is just unbelievable,” he says. Plus how fast you go from being the one supervised to the supervisor. When I checked into my first ship, I was managing 15 people. By the time I left my second ship, I had close to 100 people working for me.”

With all that experience to draw from, he considered getting out of the Navy within the past year. Here’s what he has to say about that decision-making process: “I sat down with my wife, and we said, ‘Well, what do I like doing?’ The answer was: I love going to sea on ships. And this is the only job where I get to do that with the level of responsibility I have now. So it’s really a dream come true.”

Today, LT Canby is at the beginning of a two-year shore assignment, working as a Nuclear Programs Officer, finishing an MS degree in engineering science from the Naval Postgraduate School and looking forward to getting back out to sea.

His advice for anyone looking to do what he does, “This is a great program where you get to apply your technical knowledge, do things your peers will never do and get great leadership experience – whether you want to stay in for 5 years…20 years…or beyond.

A Unique Position

“Nuclear Surface Warfare Officers are unique in that we get to bounce on each tour between a conventional sea tour and then a nuclear sea tour.

Serving on a conventionally powered ship, you see the warfighting side of the Navy. You go to sea, drive the ship, manage the weapons systems, and get that sort of experience. Then, serving on nuclear-powered carriers, you get the engineering aspect, which I particularly enjoy, the experience of managing a giant plant.

To put it in perspective, I owned half of the electric plant on a carrier – with that half producing enough power to service the hometown where I came from, a town of 4,000 people. That was really fantastic to me, having that responsibility.”

— LT Dana Scott Canby, Nuclear Officer, USN