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Programs Nuclear Engineering B.S/M.S to Nuclear Physics PhD?

  1. Jul 24, 2010 #1
    This fall I will officially start taking major courses for physics or engineering. I'd like to see what a few people in each field think of this.

    So here's my situation:

    I have already been taking courses at a community college and as non-degree student at NC State University for 3 years now. This has kind of put me at a disadvantage in a way. I have basically wasted a lot of time with courses that won't transfer over to physics or engineering, and if they have then they are the "easy" ones. This leaves me with only major courses left to take the rest of my time in college. Here lies the problem. If I just did physics, I wouldn't have 'enough' courses to take to be considered a full time student to get financial aid and all that stuff. So basically I have tried to condense the 4 year physics curriculum down to 3 years for the sake of having enough credits per semester. The result of this though is taking a lot of the upper level courses at the same time, which some advisers have told me is 'possible' but not recommended.

    On the other hand if I were to do engineering, in particular Nuclear Engineering, I wouldn't have a problem with not having enough credit hours per semester because the curriculum just requires more major courses than physics does. Not only that, but I could minor in physics, whereas if I am in physics I cannot minor in nuclear engineering. So if I did engineering it would take 4 years vs physics taking 3 years( and possibly having to take summer classes and such).

    Another appealing thing about engineering/NE at NC State is that is apparently ranked very well, and we have a reactor on campus. Not only does NC State apparently have a great engineering school, but they have an Accelerated Masters option for NE. If I did this option I could minor in physics, and be able to take the core physics courses as minor courses in NE.

    So really what I am getting at is, if I did a B.S./M.S. in NE, and while doing that program took some/most of the physics core courses(upper level Mechanics/E&M/Quantum), would it put me in a better position for pursing a PhD in Nuclear Physics than just getting a B.S. in physics? I mean I would have almost as much physics as a physics B.S. requires, and I would have had exposure to nuclear physics in the NE program. I want hands on experience and skills, but still in my heart love physics, and feel if I could get a PhD in Nuclear Physics I could go anywhere within my interests whether it be astrophysical nuclear science, deep space propulsion technology, or new age reactor research(some things I find interesting).

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2010 #2
    I am getting a BS in nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan. I went to MSU to talk to some people about applying to a PhD in nuclear physics. Here's the story:

    I am basically a year behind in physics to all other applicants (almost all are physics majors). The remedy would be to take an additional year of classes that will get me to where I need to be, and will prepare me for the physics GRE which is required to apply. I am not prepared with an engineering degree. If you can take these classes while getting a nuclear engineering degree, you could do it all at once and be ready when you graduate. However, I find that unlikely. Nuclear engineering is not as closely related to nuclear physics as you might think. I took an engineering class on QM and then nuclear physics and also a detection lab course.

    Basically these are the only classes that will help you with nuclear physics, the rest ignore some major physics concepts and focus on inelastic collisions and not wave function interaction. I suggest going the physics route and try to concentrate on nuclear classes (in your phy dept or nuclear engineering dept if they dont have any, which I hear is common). This will be better for you.

    Here are the classes they recommended me take, in case you are still considering the engineering route:

    Adv Mech 1 and 2
    Anv EM 1 and 2
    Adv QM 1 and 2

    Majoring in physics and taking a few nuc classes on the side will save you a year of study, and prepare you sufficiently for the phys GRE. I have decided not to go into nuclear physics, and will be pursuing a PhD in nuclear engineering. Hope this helps.

  4. Jul 27, 2010 #3
    I see what your saying. I was under the impression that the Nuclear Engineers touched on a good amount of nuclear physics. Your saying this isn't at the level that is needed for graduate studies in nuclear physics? i.e. not QM?

    Also if this makes any difference, while completing a 4 year B.S. in NE I will be able to take at least Advanced Mechanics 1, Advanced E&M 1, and Advanced Quantum 1. If I am able to go through with what I plan on, I will have space for advanced E&M II and possibly advanced Quantum II my senior year. Even if I couldn't fulfill the second semesters of these upper level classes, I could do so in my '1' year of graduate study in the accelerated Masters program in NE offered here at NC State.

    I do understand what your saying though. I was just hoping/planning I could get the core physics courses under my belt while doing NE B.S./M.S. and get some nuclear physics basics under my belt in the NE courses.
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