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ME v. Physics minors?

  1. Apr 23, 2013 #1
    Hi everyone,

    Which of the two minors- ME and Physics- is more beneficial to nuclear engineering major, with focus in nuclear power? I know that NE covers a lot of ME.
    Current plan:
    Double majors: MSE and NE
    Minor: Physics or ME
    Note: I have finished a lot of lower division classes so I'm sure I can finish them in four years.

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2013 #2
    Hi xholic - I'm assuming "ME" means mechanical engineering, but what does "MSE" stand for?
  4. Apr 23, 2013 #3


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    ME would be a good complement to NE and MSE (Materials Science and Engineering), particuarly if one becomes involved in engineering matters related to core design, thermal hydraulics, and corrosion, as well as the primary circuit or steam generator and steam turbine.

    Physics might be more useful for one in neutronics and radation effects of materials, or if one wishes to branch into fusion systems (assuming fusion becomes viable).
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2013
  5. Apr 23, 2013 #4
    Thank you very much, sir.
  6. Apr 24, 2013 #5

    jim hardy

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    Gold Member
    2016 Award

    I surmise you're evaluating which is more salable in the job market ?

    An operating power plant's staff will include a few nuclear engineers, a few more electrical engineers, and more yet mechanical engineers. The plant is after all a huge machine....

    A utility will have a fuels group in their main office that's mostly nuclear engineers
    and a design group with all three disciplines well represented.

    All that said - physics is so general that it's a great foundation for any engineering field.

    You might find it easier to get job interviews with an engineering degree, though.

    I'd suggest a course in automatic controls and feedback systems for anybody who plans on going into a plant.
  7. Apr 27, 2013 #6
    I'd argue having an ME minor focused towards thermal fluids and structural mechanics would be very marketable and useful to have. A reactor design is controlled more by the thermal conditions and resulting structural conditions than by the neutronics design.
  8. Apr 27, 2013 #7
    Thank you for all your comments.
    Jim: Yes, I definitely take a few classes in automatic controls and feedback systems. I think it's important to know some concepts from EE.
    Thermalne: Thank you!
  9. May 30, 2013 #8
    Doing Mechanical Engineering minor seems a bit redundant to me. A minor is 18 hours in core subjects. For example at my school as a nuclear engineer I've taken:

    Strength of Materials
    Heat Transfer
    Fluid Dynamics
    Engineering Materials
    Mechanics of Materials Lab

    Now those are all the core classes a mechanical engineer has to take, of course we don't have to take courses in manufacturing processes or mechanical design. We do have to take the same physics courses but as a nuclear engineer I had to modern physics and a radioisotope lab. The math requirements are the same, except the nuclear engineers take applied mathematics (PDE, Fourier Analysis,etc). For all intents I have a mechanical engineering degree. The only difference is I'll have 33 credit hours of nuclear engineering courses

    In my opinion I think you should take a minor in maybe electrical engineering, because after nuclear engineering is all about generating heat energy to turn a turbine to make electricity. I really don't think you'll gain much from a physics or ME minor. If anything take the FE if you're looking to add some pep to your resume or better market yourself
  10. May 30, 2013 #9
    Thanks, Caldweab!
    I will speak to my adviser about this.
    What is FE?
  11. May 30, 2013 #10
    The FE is the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam. It's the first step in becoming a registered engineer (PE), after successfully passing the FE you would be an engineer in training (EIT). They don't have a nuclear specific FE but since you will have to take the mechanical engineering core classes you could take the FE for mechanical engineering or the one called other disciplines. It will show you're serious about your career and that you really know your engineering principles.
  12. May 30, 2013 #11
    Oh I see.
    I have one more question. For upper division NE electives, should I take both fusion and fission courses? I'm still undecided on which subfield I will focus on. Would it be possible to work in fusion lab if my specialties are material science and nuclear fission?
    I attached a document of all NE courses. The italicized or highlighted courses are the electives I plan to take. Should I take the non-proliferation course?


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 30, 2013
  13. May 31, 2013 #12
    I would personally take both. Most undergraduate nuclear engineering programs deal with fission as it is currently the commercially used technology,but fusion is the future (hopefully) so it would be nice to at least get an introduction or taste of it before you graduate. Are you planning to go to graduate school?
  14. May 31, 2013 #13
    Yes. My goal is to obtain a PhD in nuclear engineering.
  15. May 31, 2013 #14
    I disagree based on UC Berkeley's nuclear engineering curriculum (http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/ne-major.pdf [Broken]). It does not have nearly as many required courses in mechanical engineering like your curriculum does. It is actually very light in courses related to thermal hydraulics/structural mechanics where having ME minor would be beneficial.

    It's highly recommend that if you haven't taken a huge amount of course work in one of the regularly tested engineering disciplines that you just take the general or other subject for the FE. A lot of NE programs do not require the extensive engineering course work outside the major. Also, you are giving the FE way too much credit. It's literally another hoop to jump over and employers only care about it if they want you to get your PE. A lot of companies that hire NEs for traditional NE subjects like core design have no need for a NE with the FE or long term, the PE. Most NE do not and will never utilized their FE certification. This is not true if one enters the thermal hydraulics/structural side of nuclear engineering.

    If you are interested in the fusion classes... take them! It's always good to take electives you are interested in. Nuclear Fission and Fusion require people from all different background and having specializations in material science or other relevant subjects will not prevent you from working for any type of research lab. A lot of nuclear fusion research IS material science research and fission/fusion are very broad terms.

    A few of the courses you highlighted/italicized are required by your curriculum. Take the non-proliferation course if you are at all interested in nuclear security.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  16. Jun 5, 2013 #15
    Thank you very much, Thermalne!
    MSE is for sure beneficial to me and I also like the subject.
    I'm not sure about ME, EECS, and Physics. I think I need to find out my main interest first before deciding my minor or taking extra classes.

    What if I would like to work in nuclear security and department of defense, would a degree in NE enable me to do so?

    Also, should I take more math even though it is not required by the majors? What do you think?

    I intend to take some of these courses:
    Mathematics 110 -- Linear Algebra
    Mathematics 104 -- Introductory and Intermediate Analysis
    Mathematics 105 -- Integration
    Mathematics 185 -- Introduction to Theory of Probability
    Mathematics 128A -- Numerical Analysis
    Statistics 134 -- Concepts of Probability
  17. Jun 5, 2013 #16
    Agreed, but I'm glad you're looking into this now!

    Of course! A general nuclear engineering degree will help qualify you for nuclear security work. It is a very board field ranging from engineering to political science work. It encompasses work from nuclear, material science, mechanical, civil,... you get the point!

    1. Linear Algebra should be a required class. 2. Is integration an extension of calculus 2? 3. Numerical Analysis will be useful for PDEs. Otherwise I'm not sure about the rest.
  18. Jun 5, 2013 #17
    Oh I see. Some people say that a degree in NE gives me limited career option (the only option is to work in nuclear power plant) .. I guess it's not true.

    Math 110 - Linear Algebra is the extension of the linear algebra course. So I'm not sure whether it will be beneficial if I learn in-depth linear algebra. Yes, Math 105 is the extension of calculus 2.

    Thank you!
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