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How to prepare for R&D in nuclear power?

  1. Jan 26, 2015 #1
    What courses can I pursue after my undergrad education that will enable me to work on next gen nuclear technologies?

    What kinds of people work in these areas and what career paths do they choose?

    I've read a lot about the different kinds of people working on Gen 4 reactors(LFTRs, TWRs) and fusion technology and their varied backgrounds. For instance, if you look at MSR technology, Alvin Weinberg who worked on the ORNL MSR experiment had a PhD in Biophysics, Kirk Sorensen (Flibe Energy, gave a few talks on TED) has degrees in mech and aerospace. There are all sorts of people working in the field of fusion power-I'm most aware of the work of plasma physicists.

    This is the part where this answer becomes a rambling by a confused guy.

    The interlapping areas of physics and engineering are a bit confusing and intimidating, because I don't want to be on a path to a degree/education that takes me somewhere absolutely unexpected. As of now, I'm studying as a generic applied physics major with courses in quantum, nuclear engineering basics, electronics, cmp etc.

    While I'm still a naive undergrad, my interests are a bit on the theoretical side-by that I mean I love working on mathematical modelling/R&D. I started off studying reactor physics, shell models etc on my own and ended up doing some particle physics R work with a professor for quite a while(due to lack of options in nuclear) which I feel might restrict me in that field. Why would a grad school admit me for a programme of nuclear engineering if all I've done is particle physics? I like what little I know of particle physics but I doubt whether I know enough to even pursue it. I thought I'll just focus on the physics that I like and it will all work out but what I'm doing and what I want to do are becoming totally separate things and I have serious doubts about what I should be doing.It may be a good thing, but I want to know where I'm headed and what will be my options in terms of grad school.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 26, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I would then recommend against graduate school.

    I spend at least half my day working on things or using techniques that didn't even exist when I was in graduate school. The life of a professional researcher is all about going somewhere absolutely unexpected. If that's not where you want to go, this isn't the life for you.
  4. Jan 27, 2015 #3
    I get what you mean. I agree.

    I probably didn't phrase it that well. I meant I don't want to lose control and end up in unfavourable circumstances career-wise, considering the small percentage of people who get assimilated into the academia. I'm okay with academic challenges.

    Bleh. I regret posting the latter half of that OP. It wasn't properly fleshed out. Essentially, I'm interested in new nuclear technologies but I'm unsure about where I want to end up-should I be working on plasma physics or nuclear engineering? Can I continue with something else like particle physics which seems to totally diverge from nuclear energy research? Will entering a certain field and enrolling in graduate school restrict me to that field? What kinds of roles do people with degrees in these fields play in research related to new nuclear energy technologies?

    This is just getting worse. I feel I'm just writing things that belong in my journal. I can't be the only one with these reservations.
  5. Jan 27, 2015 #4


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    Get yourself to the library and find Physics Today and similar magazines. Find the issue that shows recent grads and where they got jobs. Find the jobs you would like to have. Concentrate on those schools.

    Google is your friend. Wikipedia is your friend. Find out who is working on this stuff. Send them emails asking what they look for in new recruits.

    This is an interesting web site for finding out what research people are doing, though it is strongly oriented towards physics theory.


    Find somebody doing stuff you could be interested in working on. Email them to ask what they look for, and how you could work in this subject.
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