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Nuclear Engineering - Grad School R.O.I.?

  1. Nov 9, 2005 #1
    I'm hoping some of you have some good advice for me here. I’m currently working on year 4 of 5 towards a degree in nuclear engineering, and I am starting to think about grad school, GREs, etc. Do you feel that grad school would provide me with a good return on investment? Before any of you say it, Ill acknowledge that you should always do what you love, not just for money and all that. I totally agree.

    With my undergrad, that is exactly what I am doing, I really love nuclear engineering and it is an exciting topic. With respect to grad school though, I’m considering it completely from a return on investment angle. My grades are good enough to go just about wherever I want, and I know I can do it. On the other hand, I’ll be 32 when I finish undergrad and I’m and sick of always being broke living on financial aid - I'm ready to go to work and make some money.

    Considering that, do you feel that I would be better off financially to spend another 2 years in school earning a MS in N.E. (probably mostly paid for), or would it be more advantageous to go right into the workforce, gain experience, climb the corporate ladder, etc? The future is not set in stone, but I envision myself working as an engineer for several years and then transitioning into management.
     
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  3. Nov 9, 2005 #2

    Astronuc

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    I would recommend getting an MS degree in Nuclear Engineering if that is the discipline in which you will practice. On the other hand, you may check out what is available job-wise at National Labs, Nuclear Utilities, and Nuclear Technology Suppliers (GE, BNFL/Westinghouse, Areva/Framatome). If you find something appealing, it might be worthwhile taking a job.

    There are some places like Oak Ridge National Lab, which have universities nearby. In ORNL's case, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, which has a nuclear engineering program.

    http://www.engr.utk.edu/nuclear/
    http://www.engr.utk.edu/nuclear/utnegrad.html - graduate studies

    What area of interest in nuclear might also dictate where you go for grad school or work. Some places have strong programs in heat transfer and fluid mechanics, while others are better in nuclear/reactor physics. At the moment, I don't know of any NE program that is strong in materials, but PennState might be going in that direction.
     
  4. Nov 10, 2005 #3
    I forgot all about University of Tennessee-Knoxville, good call on that. So PennState would probably be the best bet for materials related study? I know (at this point) I am interested in materials, fuel cycle, criticality saftey, neutronics/reactor physics; and I am not at all interested in thermal hydraulics. Thats a shame too since the school Im doing undergrad at is big on thermal hydraulics.

    Also, I read a post you made in another thread about there being stiff competition in nuclear engineering. Why do you say that, pretty much everyone else tells me the exact opposite - that there is a big shortage of nuclear engineers due to retirements, low NE enrollment, and people just going on to different things. If I remember correctly I read something like that from ANS too. Whats the scoop?

    Anyways, thanks for the reply, I appreciate it! :biggrin:
     
  5. Nov 10, 2005 #4

    Astronuc

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    ORNL does some work in Criticality safety and nuclear methods. I have some contacts there. I need to find out how well they are tied in with UT Knoxville-NE.

    Penn State (NE) has Arthur Motta, who is excellent in materials for nuclear systems.

    Off the top of my head, other NE programs with materials experts are:
    UC Berkeley (Don Olander)
    UIUC has a relatively good program with Jim Stubbins (http://www.ne.uiuc.edu/stubbins.html) who has a materials background. UMichigan with Gary Was (http://www-ners.engin.umich.edu/cgi-bin/people.cgi?member=FMgsw&x=33&y=26)

    Well ANS tries to paint a nice as possible picture for the members and the public. I recall a letter to Nuclear News Sept 2005 issue, where an unemployed nuke pointed out that GE advertised 8 job openings in Wilmington and had 3000 qualified applicants.

    There is a shortage of Nukes, especially those with good backgrounds in materials. Colleagues at the National Labs, utilities and vendors are looking. A person with a solid background in materials and nuclear/reactor physics could pretty much write his or her own ticket.

    I am also on the lookout for talent for my comany. :biggrin:
     
  6. Nov 11, 2005 #5
    Typing in "nuclear engineer" into monster.com, I got 288 hits. Granted, all of these aren't "real nuclear engineering" jobs but as NE with 15 years exp, my take on the job market for NEs is that it's very strong.

    BSNEs generally command higher salaries and bonuses with utilities than MEs or EEs. In the utility business, a MSNE doesn't count for much (except with a central core design group, maybe) and the extra couple years of lost salary at 50K year is tough to make up. Unfortunately, many utilities want a MBA (talk about a useless degree!) for you to move up the mangerial ranks.

    GE is planning on hiring ~300 engineers for the ESBWR and the NRC is looking to hire about the same.
     
  7. Feb 4, 2006 #6
    Its been a while since Ive been to the forums, hence the delayed response. Thank you for the replies, I appreciate it.
     
  8. Feb 5, 2006 #7

    Astronuc

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    Welcome back!
     
  9. Feb 10, 2006 #8

    Astronuc

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    DEMAND FOR NUCLEAR ENGINEERING GRADUATES

    from - http://www.me.sc.edu/PDF/NE-Brochure_PDFv.pdf

    And I would strongly recommend that Nuclear Grad (and even undergrad) students take courses in

    Finite element analysis, particularly with non-linear or plastic/inelastic mechanics
    Computational Fluid Dynamics
    Materials, particularly the effect of irradiation on materials

    The industry desperately needs people with these skills!
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2006
  10. Feb 10, 2006 #9
    Exactly what my intrests are actually. Would it be likely that I could get an employer that would pay for me to get my masters?
     
  11. Feb 10, 2006 #10

    Astronuc

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    Maybe. :biggrin:
     
  12. Feb 11, 2006 #11
    This is an interesting thread. Without hijacking your thread here, let me throw this out and see if I can get any helpful comments from Astronuc in particular.

    I am taking grad courses in NE currently (with plans toward a PhD), but my background is in EE with a BS and MS (a number of years ago), followed by a detour into medicine (MD and internal medicine training). I would like to put all of this together somewhat if possible, and find NE the most interesting area of study (yes, I looked at and still am looking at biomed, but nuc just seems more interesting and challenging). I don't want anything clinical; medical physics and nuclear medicine are out. I want theoretical, "hard core" stuff with plenty of math, physics, and computational work. My goal would be academics--research & teaching ideally. I keep thinking radiation detection and shielding might be a way to go, but I'm not sure. Interestingly, with regards to the previous posts, I am planning on doing some CFD/FEA coursework and find that interesting too (without any awareness at all that this is an area in demand). Is there a niche that might make a medical + engineering background an asset? Any creative way to put all of this together into something like a coherent whole? Any thoughts/comments greatly appreciated.
     
  13. Feb 11, 2006 #12

    Astronuc

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    Firstly, these questions are very appropriate for this thread.

    When I started reading this post, I immediately thought of nuclear medicine, but I see nucdoc00 is not necessarily interested in that route.

    That would seem to be the way to go. Along those lines, Health Physics (including Radiation Protection) would seem appropriate. A related area is the interaction of radiation with materials, particularly radiation such as neutron, gamma and beta with organic compounds and molecules.

    Yes, and Yes! I think anyone doing engineering these days need a basic understanding of FEA and CFD, the latter being essentially applications of FEA to Fluid Mechanics/Dynamics.

    nucdoc00 - Besides discussing your options where you are, you might contact other departments around the country. Also, there is the Health Physics Society - http://www.hps.org/. Consider becoming a member, if only to use their resources and contacts.
     
  14. Feb 11, 2006 #13

    Morbius

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    Astronuc,

    Gary Was was one of my contemporaries at M.I.T. when I was there as a
    graduate student. It appears from the University of Michigan web site that
    Gary has stepped down as Associate Dean of Engineering for Research and
    is devoting his time to being director of the Ion Beam Lab, which he started.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Physicist
     
  15. Feb 11, 2006 #14

    Astronuc

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    :rofl: It's a small world. :biggrin:
     
  16. Feb 12, 2006 #15
    Thanks for your help, Astronuc! I will continue exploring my options. I came very close to staying in grad school for a PhD in EE with plans for an academic career but detouring into medicine. Now it seems to be coming full circle. Perhaps once an engineer, always an engineer. BTW, is that avatar you?
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2006
  17. Feb 12, 2006 #16

    Astronuc

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    You are most welcome nucdoc. Yes, that is me.
     
  18. Feb 14, 2006 #17
    Astronuc,

    If you don't mind saying so, what part of the country are you in? You look just a tad familiar, but I can't imagine that would be possible. Are you a nuclear engineering or physics professor?
     
  19. Feb 14, 2006 #18

    Astronuc

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    I am in the NY area, just halfway between DocAl and Tom Mattson. :biggrin:

    I am a full-time nuclear engineer, but unfortunately not in academia. I'd like to go back to university and teach though, because most of what I have learned is not taught in the university.
     
  20. Feb 15, 2006 #19

    ZapperZ

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    Unless they've gone off the map, U of Wisconsin-Madison and U. of Minnesota used to have two very good Nuclear Engineering dept. U. of Wis (my alma mater) used to have a research reactor right in the Engineering building, and also a very active plasma physics research program in conjuction with the Physics dept.

    Zz.
     
  21. Feb 15, 2006 #20

    Astronuc

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    Somewhere in the past, we have a thread of university nuclear engineering programs.

    The NE program at U of Wisc is in the Engineering Phyiscs Department - http://www.engr.wisc.edu/ep/ and the program's site is - http://www.engr.wisc.edu/ep/neep/, and faculty list - http://www.engr.wisc.edu/ep/faculty/ to give an idea of the research at Wisc.

    University of Minnesota does not have a NE program anymore. :frown:
    But there is:

    Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics (AEM) - http://www.aem.umn.edu/
    Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS) - http://www.cems.umn.edu/
    Mechanical Engineering - http://www.me.umn.edu/,research areas - http://www.me.umn.edu/research/areas.shtml
    Physics (and Astronomy) - http://www.physics.umn.edu/ , http://www.astro.umn.edu/

    All are within University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology (IT).
     
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