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BS in Applied Physics/Masters in Nuclear Engineering?

  1. Mar 10, 2013 #1
    I'm a sophomore applied physics major at Columbia Engineering, and have recently thought about going into nuclear engineering as a career. I'm extremely interested in physics and am pretty sure that it's a pretty hot industry since many people working in nuclear engineering are entering retirement age soon.

    Unfortunately, there is no nuclear engineering program at Columbia, but I would take classes perhaps relevant to the field such as plasma physics and nuclear science. I'd also be taking solid state, physics of fluids, electrodynamics, quantum, and the like as well (and maybe some optics and lasers courses). I'm also minoring in computer science for fun.

    My plan to enter nuclear engineering would be to get a graduate degree (either a master's or an engineer's degree) in nuclear engineering, though I am unsure if my major in applied physics would prepare me for such a program, as I've heard that the field uses mechanical engineering principles. Also what concerns me is how having a graduate degree affects the chances of getting entry level positions, as many of my older friends have expressed concerns that getting too high of a degree without work experience can often close some doors (PhDs).

    If it helps, I'll likely have an above average GPA if I keep my current work up, and hope to get research experience over the next few years (right now I'm working under a materials science professor on nanoparticles). As for what an applied physics degree actually is, it's essentially the same as a pure physics degree at Columbia, with less humanities courses (a physics major is in the college, not the engineering school). Also, a pure physics major would take classes in particle physics, cosmology, general relativity, and the like while an applied physics would take plasma physics, nuclear science, optics, lasers, etc. (Although this seems self explanatory, a lot of people I talk to are confused as to what an applied physics degree actually entails).

    Thanks for any help or advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 12, 2013 #2
    First off, talk to Astronuc (one of the mods on here with experience in the nuclear field). Secondly, a know a few professors and grad students in the nuclear engineering department at my university that got physics B.S. degrees then went on to nuclear for grad school...so its certainly possible. I myself was considering a double major in physics and nuke at one time, but then realized I preferred theory to applied topics.

    Nuclear engineering as I am sure you know is a pretty broad field, so I can't give you the best advice on what courses to take (but Astronuc probably can). I know that a lot of reactor concepts involve heat transfer and fluid mechanics, though, so I think those might be good courses to take. I think in general if you feel versed in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, basic nuclear physics, partial differential equations, and computer programming then you should have a good base for entering a graduate program. Best of luck
  4. Mar 12, 2013 #3
    I wonder where you get this info from? I ask because this seems to be a claim that is made about many fields. Check out this thread about it: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=672379

    Maybe its true for engineering, I have no idea. If you have a specific place you this from it would be interesting to see.
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