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To pursue a PhD in NE with materials specialization

  1. Nov 13, 2012 #1
    I am an undergraduate student in nuclear engineering, and I wanna pursue a PhD in nuclear materials. I have research background in materials corrosion, but my undergraduate university doesn't have courses on materials science for nuclear engineering students.
    I have noticed that many professors in USA employed students with materials science background. So I am worried about my background and hesitated whether I should apply for nuclear materials. Maybe I should apply for thermal hydraulics since my university has extensive courses on that, but I have no interest in it.
    I am very interested in work of Dr. Was, and I have read lots of papers from his group. But someone has informed me that Dr. Was rarely takes international students. I have no idea what I should do, please help me, guys!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2012 #2


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    There are a number of nuclear engineering programs with specialties in materials, but the materials part may be through another department.

    Is one interested in structural materials in irradiation environments, e.g., steels of pressure vessels, piping, tubing (heat exchangers), reactor internals, or is one interested in fuel structural materials, which experience high levels of neutron, gamma and beta radiations?

    There are materials programs at Texas A&M, U. of Tennessee, PennState U., U. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, U. of Michigan, MIT, U. of Florida, U. of South Carolina, U. of California - Berkeley, UCLA, just to name a few. The emphasis is different in each program based on the interests and experience of the faculty.

    The relatively new area of materials is modeling and simulation using molecular dynamics. In conjuction with experiments, the objective is to develop more mechanistic models that describe the microstructural evolution of materials in their operating environment. This applies to fuel materials and core structural materials, and extends to corrosion products as well.
  4. Nov 14, 2012 #3
    Thanks, astronuc

    I am afraid the modeling and simulation of materials might be more suitable for students of physics. I have only learned Quantum Mechanics during undergraudate years, no Solid State Physics.

    My research is about materials corrosion, stress corrosion cracking precisely. My work is about constructing coolant loops, controlling systems and loading systems. I am also doing work of data acquisition, developing a small program to collect data using Labview. I think I have a week foundation of knowledge about materials science(although I am trying to make up for this by learning materials by myself), while I have strong ability for experimental work. I do not know which university is suitable for me.

    As far as I know, U of W madison, U of M Ann arbor, UIUC, and UC berkeley are doing experiments. I am afraid that these universities are TOO GOOD to me that I might have little chance to be admitted.

    U. of Florida has materials programs at its materials science department, but they don't have any introduction for that. UCLA's nuclear program is only accessible to students with master degree I suppose. I know Dr. Brain Wirth at U of Tennessee is very excellent in materials simulation, but unfortunately I have no experience of molecular dynamics.

    What's your suggestion considering my situation?

    Kind regards
  5. Nov 16, 2012 #4
    I'd highly recommend Dr. Wirth for materials. He just got several large grants and his students are top notch. He has picked up a lot of students at UTK who have their undergraduate degree in Nuclear Engineering with very little materials related course work. If you can show you're willing to learn the material and how to do RESEARCH... you'll do fine!

    Most nuclear engineering schools are adding material science specialties, you can't go wrong IMO.
  6. Nov 16, 2012 #5


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    One can learn modeling and simulation, in addition to learning materials characterization and experimental work. If one can do all three, then one will have unlimited opportunties.

    I second that. I'm working with Wirth (and others) and one of his students.
  7. Nov 17, 2012 #6
    Yeah, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a great materials program for nuclear engineering graduate students. I guess I don't mean to go off topic, but I have an undergraduate gpa of 3.33 and master grad gpa of 3.5 (both in nuclear engr.). What are my chances of applying to top 10 nuclear engr. Phd programs? I was hoping to apply to MIT, Michigan, Penn state, Texas A & M and Illinois Urbana. Hoping I can get some feedback from someone.
  8. Nov 18, 2012 #7
    Dr. Peter L Andresen appreciated Dr. Wirth's work very much, and he also mentioned Dr. Wirth when I told him about my plan to pursue a Ph.D. in USA. Several friends of mine in USA also recommend that Dr. Wirth does excellent work in nuclear materials. But I could not find his personal page on UTK website. Could you give me such a link?
  9. Nov 18, 2012 #8
    Thanks, astronuc
    Are you working on materials now or are you professor in nuclear materials?
    I noticed that Dr. Wirth is now a visiting professor at UC Berkeley, and I have no idea whether he mentors students for UTK or for UC Berkeley.
  10. Nov 18, 2012 #9
    Dr. Wirth's personal page: http://www.engr.utk.edu/nuclear/wirth.html [Broken]

    He's mentoring the last round of students he had at UC Berkeley (I believe it's only one or two now) and he has nice sized group at UTK. He left UC Berkeley for UTK a few years back and had a few students that wanted to stay at UC Berkeley.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  11. Nov 19, 2012 #10
    Thanks for the information you offered!
    Do you know anyone who is now at his group? The website offered limited information. I wish to know what specific research his group is now doing and find whether I am interested in his work.
    Kind regards
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  12. Nov 20, 2012 #11
    Please check your PMs.
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