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

  • Thread starter tehfrr
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  • #1
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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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  • #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 [Broken] - 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.
 
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  • #3
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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:
 
  • #4
Astronuc
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tehfrr said:
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.
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 [Broken]) 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 [Broken])

tehfrr said:
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?
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:
 
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  • #5
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Astronuc said:
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:

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.
 
  • #6
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Its been a while since Ive been to the forums, hence the delayed response. Thank you for the replies, I appreciate it.
 
  • #7
Astronuc
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Welcome back!
 
  • #8
Astronuc
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DEMAND FOR NUCLEAR ENGINEERING GRADUATES

Studies carried out by the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) have shown a major imbalance between the number of nuclear engineering students and the positions available. For the BS/MS level the projected supply of graduating students for 2003 is 174 versus 642. To counter this shortage, the federal government is undertaking extensive programs to support graduate students in the nuclear field.
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!
 
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  • #9
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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?
 
  • #10
Astronuc
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theCandyman said:
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?
Maybe. :biggrin:
 
  • #11
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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.
 
  • #12
Astronuc
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nucdoc00 said:
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.
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.

. . . . theoretical, "hard core" stuff with plenty of math, physics, and computational work. My goal would be academics--research & teaching ideally.
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.

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?
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.
 
  • #13
Morbius
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Astronuc said:
UMichigan with Gary Was (http://www-ners.engin.umich.edu/cgi-bin/people.cgi?member=FMgsw&x=33&y=26 [Broken])
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
 
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  • #14
Astronuc
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Morbius said:
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
:rofl: It's a small world. :biggrin:
 
  • #15
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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?
 
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  • #16
Astronuc
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nucdoc00 said:
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?
You are most welcome nucdoc. Yes, that is me.
 
  • #17
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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?
 
  • #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.
 
  • #19
ZapperZ
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Astronuc said:
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 [Broken]) 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 [Broken])

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.
 
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  • #20
Astronuc
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ZapperZ said:
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.
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 [Broken] areas - http://www.me.umn.edu/research/areas.shtml [Broken]
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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  • #21
Morbius
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Astronuc said:
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.
Astronuc,

Another "it's a small world moment".

The chairman of the NE program at U. of Wisconsin, Michael Corradini:

http://www.engr.wisc.edu/ep/faculty/corradini_michael.html

is another one of my contemporaries while I was a graduate student at M.I.T.

It seems a lot of my friends from M.I.T. became professors; Fred Best [ Texas A&M ],
Gary Was [ Univ of Michigan ], and Michael Corradini [ Univ of Wisconsin ].

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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  • #22
ZapperZ
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Astronuc said:
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:

Somehow I'm not surprised that the NE dept got absorbed into another dept, considering that state of nuclear engineering during the past decade or so. That's too bad. They used to have a linear confinment device in the basement of Engineering Research building, and their 1 MW (I think) nuclear reactor was the first reactor I ever saw - you could look down into the pool and see the bluish cerenkov light.

I need to go back to Madison one of these days, maybe for a Badgers football game. :)

Zz.
 
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  • #23
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Postdocs & career advice

It has been suggested to me that I might be better off pursuing a postdoc rather than a PhD at this stage in the game. However, it doesn't seem to me that there are nearly as many postdocs done in engineering as in the basic sciences. Plenty are done by physicists, but for PhD NEs? On the other hand, for someone 10 yrs out with an EE background, a postdoc in NE or biomed doesn't exactly seem appropriate (or likely). I am close to ORNL, so perhaps I should look into trying to get involved there as my best bet. The other question is if and to what extent having a different background and path will be an obstacle to getting a job. Sure, I enjoy learning for its own sake, but being able to make a living at it would be nice too. BTW-does anyone know anything about South Carolina NE program--seems to be fairly new and is listed under the ME dept. Thanks--
 
  • #24
Astronuc
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nucdoc00 said:
It has been suggested to me that I might be better off pursuing a postdoc rather than a PhD at this stage in the game. However, it doesn't seem to me that there are nearly as many postdocs done in engineering as in the basic sciences. Plenty are done by physicists, but for PhD NEs? On the other hand, for someone 10 yrs out with an EE background, a postdoc in NE or biomed doesn't exactly seem appropriate (or likely). I am close to ORNL, so perhaps I should look into trying to get involved there as my best bet. The other question is if and to what extent having a different background and path will be an obstacle to getting a job. Sure, I enjoy learning for its own sake, but being able to make a living at it would be nice too. BTW-does anyone know anything about South Carolina NE program--seems to be fairly new and is listed under the ME dept. Thanks--
You should talk to folks at ORNL and UTenn-Knoxville regarding opportunities.
http://www.engr.utk.edu/nuclear/

As for USC, the NE program seems relatively new. Elwyn Roberts (http://www.me.sc.edu/fs/roberts.html) has had many years experience with materials and manufacturing at Westinghouse.

Dr. Sutharshan (http://www.me.sc.edu/fs/sutharshan.html) [Broken] - I know quite well. :biggrin:

Travis Knight (http://www.me.sc.edu/fs/knight.html [Broken]) is relatively new from U. of Florida where he worked in advanced nuclear fuel concepts.

So SoCarolina seems to have core of good people, but I believe the program is too small to support a post doc, although you might be able to do a PhD there. UTenn is probably a better choice for postdoc work.
 
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  • #25
Just curious, can I student who is pursuing a masters in computer science with a research emphasis on CFD. Be able to do research in the area of Nuclear Engineering?. My background is as Bs in Compsc-math with almost all the course for a seperate degree in Physics.
 

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