Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Nuclear Engineering Questions

  1. Aug 31, 2010 #1
    I'm a physics and math student one year away from finishing my undergraduate degrees. I've taken plenty of classes but found I'm most interested in nuclear and quantum physics. Graduate school in physics has been the plan since the start, but I'm beginning to think nuclear engineering might fit my interests/personality better. I think this because while I do find the physics side of things very interesting I enjoy the application of the science more than the "fundamental physics" type research. This summer I had the chance to work at a national lab where I designed, modeled, and built an instrument for a nuclear facility. I really enjoyed the opportunity to create something that fixes a unique problem. I prefer this to previous physics research I have done involving physics experiments. I think the main reason for this is my hands-on personality. I enjoy building/fixing things and always have more projects going than I have time for (thanks to coursework).

    My understanding of graduate school is that it is much more focused than undergraduate. For this reason I've been given the advice to apply to schools that are strong in the nuclear sub-field (reactor design, materials, medical, space, computation, ....) I would want a career in. I think my current skill-set is geared more towards the computational side of things (I have a strong numerical analysis/programming background), but I'm worried if I go this route I miss out on design and the chance to come up with solutions to technical/mechanical problems. So I guess you could say that I'm undecided on what sub-field I'm most interested in, and because of this I'm having a difficult time deciding which graduate schools to apply to.

    Here's my questions:
    Are computer modeling and design usually separate tasks, or is it common for a NE to be involved in both?
    What are some ways to determine how strong a graduate school is in a certain area?
    What skills are/will be in demand in industry?
    Can you recommend any research areas based on my interests?

    I know these questions may be too broad based on the diversity of the NE field. If it helps I'm most interested in power generation from fission. I can also clarify if you have any questions, I'm just worried if I make this post any longer no one will read it. Thanks for reading, any help is greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2010 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Computer modeling is more along the lines of analysis, and design is usually a separate function.

    Designers may not necessarily be involved in the analysis part. While that might have been generally true in the past, that may have changed or is changing, because now we see a lot of CAD/CAE applications.

    Whereas in the past, a designer may pass of a 3D model to an engineer to analyze, programs like SolidWorks have CAE imbedded in them.

    An engineer who is proficient in CAD/CAE, and knows mechanics and materials, will certainly find abundant opportunities.

    In nuclear, there is demand for proficient engineers in core design as well as mechanical design, and generally there is more work in mechanical design than core design, since the core is a relatively small part of an entire plant.

    Plants require mechanical engineers, structural/civil engineers, electrical engineers, and various other disciplines.

    Keep one's eyes on this - http://www.ornl.gov/ornlhome/b_roll/casl.shtml [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook