Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!


  1. Jul 15, 2010 #1
    A little background information. I am currently working a summer internship out at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and will be going into my senior year for my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at San Jose State (in very good academic standing). Recently I have become interested in going into Nuclear Engineering, and I have set up a few face-to-face meetings with some N.E.s here at LLNL, but before I talk with them I'd like to get as much information as possible.

    My first question is, with a BSME, am I limited in what areas I can study for my MSNE? I have been looking at different graduate schools, and as some you might know, LLNL has some very close ties with UC Berkeley, so naturally I was looking at their NE program. One area of the study that they listed which I think would be particularly interesting to go into is Lasers, Particle Beams, and Plasma. This shouldn't come as a surprise that, in the course of finishing my BSME, I haven't taken any courses on lasers, particle beams, or plasma outside of the standard physics series. Will the lack of relevant course on this subject limit me from this field? If so, then what areas of study in a MSNE program can/do BSMEs go into?

    My second question is a little related to the first and is about my area of focus. SJSU offers three areas of focus in their ME program: Machine Design, Mechatronics, and Thermal/Fluids. I've been told by my adviser that I don't have to focus in any area and can take any technically elective(s) that I want as long as I have a reason for it. I looked into taking some physics course (more specifically, lasers and optics), but they are not going to be offered within the year/I won't be able to finish the prerequisites within this year. How does my focus effect, if at all, what is available to me in graduate school (and what I can do in my career)? Would I be better focusing in Thermal/Fluids, or does it not matter (meaning I'd stay in Mechatronics)?

    I appreciate the input.:smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2010 #2
    Hello Stang,

    I don't think having an ME degree will limit you field of study significantly, though you might find (as I think I have) that the best degrees for nuclear grad seem to be physics and/or math, this is especially true for plasma physics and computational radiation transport. I recently graduate with a BS in NE (I was able to take a couple of plasma courses as well) and wouldn't touch plasma research with a 10 foot pole. Having such a strong physics background is essentially. In my graduate school visit to Michigan, it seemed that most of the plasma recruits who were invited had physics BS's.

    Earning an ME degree will make you more attractive to professors in thermal hydraulics research, but again, it won't limit you. There are people coming from all degrees in math and science who start a new field (it just might take a year of undergrad or prelim courses to get up to speed in the field...in your case, likely a few physics courses). Of your choices of specialty, I would definitely say go with Thermal/Fluids. It would be helpful in many field in nuclear including reactor and plasma TH and CFD. Machine Design seems totally lame, imo, and Mechatronics just isn't as cool as T/F. Just my opinion though.

    Additional note...I would say that if you aren't looking to a Ph.D., avoid plasma...it's mostly a research field (except for like TVs and lights)...and having a reactor-based MS would be more marketable.
  4. Jul 15, 2010 #3
    I should have pointed out that, career wise, I am looking at staying at LLNL; the work environment and type of work is what I want to pursue. That being said, I'm more interested in the lasers (and particle beam) portion of the focus, so I guess that then brings up the question of whether there is a focus within a focus.

    My main attraction to Mechatronics is that it dips into other fields (mainly software engineering and electrical engineering); I have a rather large problem with liking too many different fields of study (I've gone from a ME major, to a CE, back to ME, thought about going to software, and for awhile was looking at physics).
  5. Jul 15, 2010 #4
    Haha. If you want to do lasers, a Ph.D. in physics would likely be best...not really a nuclear engineering thing.
  6. Jul 16, 2010 #5
    Well the I guess my question is, when going into a MS program in NE, how does a BS in ME effect what is available? I understand that I could take some undergrad courses to get up to speed, but realistically, with a BSME, what am I looking at? What about the type of work done in each area?

    I've looked around for this information via the internet, and haven't really found anything. I'd like to minimize the amount of questions I need to ask.
  7. Jul 16, 2010 #6
    I guess I don't really know what sort of answer you want. You will still have the freedom to do whatever, but sure you will be pushed to areas more applicable to ME...like thermal hydraulics.

    What do you mean "what type" of work in each area?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook