Peter Caracappa

Roles and Responsibilities

The Chief Radiation Safety Officer/Executive Director provides innovative and strategic leadership and directs, leads, promotes and supports a comprehensive radiation safety program throughout Columbia University (CU) and affiliated institutions including the Cyclotron and Radiochemistry Lab, and the New York Presbyterian (NYP) facilities (NYP-Columbia University Medical Center, NYP-Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NYP-Allen Hospital) (collectively, “Campuses”). The Chief collaborates with EH&S program directors and managers to promote best management practices on all Campuses and works directly with the Chairs of the Radiation Safety Committees to ensure that all activities are in compliance with pertinent local, state and federal regulations and applicable national and international standards of practice. 

The Chief is responsible for recommending, developing, maintaining and promoting appropriate policies, procedures and programs and maintaining awareness of changes in the regulatory environment including proposed changes to laws, regulations and standards. He oversees the radiation safety training program for faculty, staff, and students who work with radioactive materials or radiation-producing equipment. The Chief applies best practices, including relevant controls (engineering/procedural/administrative) to maintain radiation exposures as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA).

Biography

Dr. Caracappa has been a practicing health physicist for nearly 20 years, with more than a dozen of those as the radiation safety officer for broad and diverse programs.  Prior to joining Columbia, Dr. Caracappa served as the Radiation Safety Officer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with responsibility for oversight of at a 100 MeV electron accelerator facility and a low-power research reactor, in addition to a comprehensive research program.  He completed his Ph.D. at Rensselaer in 2006, and also became a member of the faculty in Nuclear Engineering, serving as the primary instructor for courses in Nuclear Engineering and Health Physics.  In 2014, he was named the Director of the Reactor Critical Facility, a low-power research and training reactor at RPI.

He also remained engaged in diverse research activities, including computational dosimetry for medical physics applications and development of methods for nuclear reactor benchmark experiments.  He is responsible for significant contributions to the development of tools to improve the quantification, tracking, and management of radiation dose from Computed Tomography examination, one of the largest contributors to medical radiation exposure.  He has authored or co-authored over 25 peer-reviewed papers or proceedings and 100 conference presentation abstracts on a diverse set of topics.

Dr. Caracappa currently holds an appointment as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Medical Physics Program at Columbia.  He has been certified in the comprehensive practice of health physics by the American Board of Health Physics since 2005.

Following the nuclear accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi in March 2011, Dr. Caracappa appeared regularly in media coverage regarding the extent and impact of the radiological releases from the plant.  He was sought after because he demonstrated the ability to communicate the information available and its implications in a fair, level-headed, and understandable manner.  He appeared in the coverage of media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, AP, Reuters, NPR’s Morning Edition, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, and PBS NewsHour

He was recognized by the American Nuclear Society for his contributions to the response to the Fukushima Accident.  In 2013 he was awarded the Elda E. Anderson Award from the Health Physics Society for contributions to the health physics as a young professional.