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NE Undergraduate Degree?

  1. Aug 26, 2012 #1
    Hello. I am wondering how imperative or useful it is to attain your undergraduate degree in Nuclear Engineering for those who hope to go on to do Nuclear Engineering in graduate school? Are there any other engineering fields that would transition well into a Nuclear Engineering grad program?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 29, 2012 #2

    So I'm currently in a NE undergraduate program, so I might be of some help here.

    Before I can answer your question, I must ask you a question: useful in what sense? What is it you want to do?

    Many of the graduates of my program get jobs in the nuclear industry right away, so I suppose that is useful.

    A lot of the graduate students in NE come from a physics or mechanical engineering background, so those are useful.

    But really, I'd say that if you really want to do a msc in NE or something, it'll depend on the area you wish to focus your research. There's currently a lot of work on corrosion, so a chemistry background would be helpful. Anything with heat transfer a ME background would be helpful.Reactor physics, I'd say mathematics or physics. Simulation: perhaps computer science.
  4. Aug 29, 2012 #3
    I would like to work in plasma research or similar research fields. I am very interested in doing undergraduate research. By asking if it is useful, I am basically asking if it will give me a leg up in graduate school, help me to do undergraduate research related to the field, etc? Also, thank you so much for responding.
  5. Aug 29, 2012 #4
    The only thing that will help you is hard work. If you'd like to do work is plasma physics, you'll need a very strong mathematical grounding. Plasmas are funny things, and the field isn't too well funded. I know a couple people who have PHDs in plasma physics and they work as reactor physicists. But really, the field you get into isn't overly important if you are a curious person, for there is something interesting to be discovered in all fields.

    Work hard, don't wait. Treat mathematics and physics like an art and practice it. Talk to people in the field, attend conferences on what you're interested. Those things will help you.

    Undergraduate research is a strange thing. I currently work as an undergraduate researcher. The most important thing about undergraduate research is that you're able to work hard with a minimum of supervision and guidance. Good writing skills are a must. I will be lucky if I can get an hour of my prof's time a week. The sad thing is that most universities do undergrad research as a sort of marketing toy. They'll have some sort of small amount of money that they can set aside to pay students for a summer to work on various projects. Most of us get jobs operating equipment or sorting through data instead of 'real research'. The granting agencies don't count the number of undergraduate researchers you have, only graduate researchers.

    I was lucky, I taught my self to write code at a very young age and I put together a portfolio in high school, so they have me writing custom software for lab equipment this summer, but I am very lucky. The guy in the lab beside me knew how to build electric circuits, so they have him working a few related projects.

    But make sure this is what you really want, because it'll become your life. There isn't an hour in the day I don't do something related to 'work' (well other than eat or sleep). Everyone you'll know or have anything in common with will be from your department. You sort of take the red pill when you completely devote yourself to a field. I manage a few hours a week to go to a party or play soccer or play the guitar or something, but you really do have to be very devoted.

    But if you decide to do this, put all your energy into it and never look back. The mountain that you will climb will seem insurmountable, and indeed many fall off, but if you're willing to put continuous effort into this for years, then it is well worth it.

    What would really give you a leg up is having a portfolio of some sort. Write some sort of matlab code that solves some sort of heat transfer problem or something like that and the profs will be all over you.
  6. Sep 9, 2012 #5
    There is a lot of waste still to be cleaned up at Hanford I know. The jobs are there when the government is willing to spend the money. That's the only issue I see in the waste clean up side is the classic funding wave. BUT, that waste isn't going away any time soon and the worst stuff is no easy thing to fix. It is a big challenge to safely clean up our nuclear legacy and there are years of work out there. In the future I think we will need nuclear power and the issue was and still is the waste stream as as much as anything else.

    I think it's as good a career choice as any as long as you are willing to move to the work and understand it is usually tied to government spending thus who's in office. Best wishes in your search!
  7. Sep 9, 2012 #6


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    It's better to have a nuclear engineering degree at the undergraduate level if one wishes to pursue nuclear engineering in graduate school and as a profession.

    The nuclear engineering curriculum introduces one to the various areas unique to nuclear energy. However, it is not absolutely necessary for one to have a nuclear engineering undergrad degree. A degree in mechanical engineering or physics would be fine. In that case, as a graduate student, one would take some remedial courses, e.g., introduction to reactor physics (which is normally done in the third year of an undergrad program).

    Graduate courses are more advanced than undergrad courses. The usual graduate reactor physics course is based on the assumption that the student has completed an undergraduate reactor physics course.
  8. Sep 17, 2012 #7

    jim hardy

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    i'd suggest that most things nuclear are surrounded by a lot of things electronic.
    A good electronics man who has knowledge of basic reactor physics is a good asset to the staff of a power plant and, i would guess, might be a handy resource around a research lab as well.

    I'd say if it's the plasma itself that fascinates you go for that nuclear or physics degree.
    If it's the machinery surrounding the plasma that catches your fancy you can still be a team player and contribute those skills.
    I think that's along the lines Astro may have been suggesting.
    My advisors let me count reactor physics as an elective toward my BSEE degree. Over my career it proved a really good mix.

    old jim
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