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Programs Nuclear Engineering PhD (related to reactors)

  1. Jun 6, 2010 #1
    Hey everybody. This message is for engineers and scientists in and around the reactor field. I would like to gain a better understanding of what a PhD would really be like, the likelihood of acceptance, and what jobs it would entitle me to that I could not obtain with only a masters.

    I will be finishing an undergraduate Nuclear Engineering degree at the University of Michigan next year. I have found an interest in fast reactors, as it pertains to breeding fissile species as well as closing the fuel cycle. I am interested in studying these systems, but do not know what it would really mean to do a PhD on this subject.

    Basically, I am pretty decent with computers; I am familiar with monte carlo methods for neutron diffusion, etc. My math skills are decent, and I am comfortable with several numerical programs (Mathematica, some Matlab, etc), although programming on computers is not really my favorite thing to do. I have research and design experience in a lab. I am not an exceptional student, but I have a little over a 3.4, and at Michigan that is on the higher end of things. I will be applying to a masters at Michigan as a fail safe, but am really interested in doing a PhD at Georgia Tech. They have a Fast Reactor Research Group who is studying what (I think) I am am interested in.

    Questions: What will a PhD in this area consist of? Mostly computer simulations? How creative would this be? Are experiments often run? Is there often flexibility? How do you balance your personal life (typical hours/week)? What jobs would this allow me to have when I am done? Are companies looking for people in this area of knowledge? Could I switch over to PWR's without much trouble? How different are they as far as skill sets? How about demand for someone in that knowledge base internationally? There are a few PhD people in each operating reactor right now (I hear), what do they do? Is it creative? What is pay like? How does it compare to a masters grad that works at a reactor, and how is the job different? What other universities have fast reactor research going on? University of Florida is doing some cool things too, I think. What GPA and GRE scores will they be looking for?

    Really I just want to know this would be a good decision, I mean I don't want to sit at a computer all day, every day. I don't want to be the top my field and give up everything I have (girlfriend, family, music, etc.) I'm not doing this to gain respect. I want to enjoy life, but also to contribute to the scientific community, and be a part of a growing technology.

    I am really looking forward to any enlightened response, I have been thinking so much about it and haven't been able to find the right people to talk to. Thanks,

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 7, 2010 #2


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    Commercial plants are LWRs, and that is the technology for currently planned commercial plants.

    There are FR concepts in the Gen-IV set.

    PhD in reactor physics would essentially be simulation - computational physics. There is limited experimental work in fast reactor concepts. Off hand, I can think of any though.

    If one gets a good handle on multi-group diffusion and/or transport theory, one should be able to switch to PWRs without much trouble.

    Most operating commercial reactors are under supervision of SROs, who may have BS in NE or other engineering degree. They might have come through the Navy. There are some PhDs at utilities, and quite a few with MS, but they don't do a lot with reactor physics necessarily. The fuel suppliers, AREVA, Toshiba/Westinghouse, and GNF do much of the reload design and safety analysis, except for some utilities, which have developed their own methods based on vendor codes/methods or independent codes like Studvik's SIMULATE.

    If one is interested in FR technology, then one might look into activities at INL.
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