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Chemical/Nuclear Engnineering

  1. Nov 10, 2009 #1
    I have been debating lately about what I kind of field I want to go into once I gradute college. I will describe my situation and what choices I'm thinking of making and would love any advice and input.

    I am currently a junior and in the BS/MS program pursuing a masters in chemcial engineering. I also have a minor in business administration. I did internships in a pharma company and an oil refinery and while both were enjoyable neither really suited me. After doing some research I became interested in nuclear fusion and alternative energy and could see myself going into that field. Ideally I wouldn't mind working on the ITER project or some other nuclear fusion technology. But a thousand other more qualified people are trying to get on the same project so I'm not getting my hopes up.

    I have also become interested in General Atomics GT-MHR technology (a new nuclear reactor). I came to realize that all the things I was really interested had something to do with nuclear energy on some level. So what do I do now. I can finish getting my masters in chemical engineering which I will most likely do. My school doesn't offer a nuclear engineering degree and I have a full scholarship here so I don't want to switch to another school for Nuclear Engineering. However, if my chem e degree won't get me into the nuclear field I would consider it. Should I just get a bachelors in chemical and take some classes related to nuclear engineering that can transfer to another school once I graduate and then get a bachelors in nuclear there. Or can I get a bachelors or a masters in chem e and then get a masters in nuclear engineering as well once I am done here?

    Really it all comes down to one key question, how useful is my chemical engineering degree going to be if I try to go into the nuclear engineering field once I graduate. And not just the process engineering involved with flows around nuclear reactors but a role in the actual design and physics behind some nuclear technologies such as fusion, nuclear pulse propulsion, etc.

    Thanks for the help and sorry for such a long post.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2009 #2
    Take a look at your class list. It probably won't be relevant. We have primarily mechanical engineers working on steam turbines and generators etc for nuclear and other power plants. Obviously nuclear engineers would be doing the reaction portion. There are a huge number of controls and auxiliary systems involved in the process as well.

    Mechanical engineering is probably most relevant to nuclear, but chemistry doesn't hurt. Can you switch to mechanical and keep your scholarship? A ChemE degree shouldn't hurt you when applying to nuclear programs (based on my very limited experience here), especially if you can get some electives in. I'd take a look at the websites of specific schools you might be interested in and talk to your advisors and possibly those grad programs you might apply to.

    Another way to go would be to apply to rotational engineering programs after your BS, such as EEDP at GE Energy (http://www.ge.com/careers/students/eedp/index.html). You could then transition to your specific area of interest within the company regardless of your undergrad background, with more or less difficulty depending on the organization.

    Oh also, you'll probably need a PhD to do any real research around the basic technologies involved - definitely if you want to work in a lab or research facility. Without that, it may or may not feel like you are still just doing process flows or whatever around the main system, and you probably won't be doing much physics.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  4. Nov 10, 2009 #3
    I believe graduate nuclear engineering departments in particular select applicants of varying backgrounds because so few universities offer nuclear engineering degrees. If chemical engineering is what you are interested in, you should be fine. Just make sure to take certain courses required of nuclear engineering students.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2009
  5. Nov 11, 2009 #4
    Thanks a lot for the help. I am going to talk to some professors in nuclear engineering departments in other schools as well as some nuclear engineers and see if they can offer their opinions. I could switch to mechanical engineering and keep my scholarship but it would take me longer to graduate. I think I am just going to finish my masters in chem e and over the next year or so decide on what to do as far as the nuclear part. I enjoy process engineering but I have the fear that I will be stuck doing the same boring thing day after day working in a chemical plant or oil refinery. I want to at least attempt to work for a company where I can be a part of something bigger. Something cutting edge.
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