nuclear engineers

Discussion in 'Community' started by nizz, Aug 10, 2004.

  1. nizz macrumors regular

    Aug 10, 2004
    north philly
    Like many other college sophomores, I am running out of time to declare a specific engineering major.

    After about a year of bouncing between computer science, computer engineering, mechanical and industrial engineering, I've started to consider nuclear engineering.

    A major turn-off for choosing this major has been the fact that so very few people actually choose it. If there is anyone out there with any first-hand experience in this field, any information given will help me a LOT. Thanks.
  2. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    I'm doing Medical Radiation Physics, and am thinking about doing Nuclear Medicine. Don't know if Nuclear Engineering is anywhere remotely close.

  3. saabmp3 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 22, 2002
    Tacoma, WA
    Unless you have an excellent GPA, it doesn't matter too much what eng you take (if it's physical that is) because you can get a job in civil, mechanical, etc. I'm confused why your bouncing from CE to NE or CS to ME. CS isn't engineering at all, and really isn't close to ME or NE at all?

  4. musicpyrite macrumors 68000


    Jan 6, 2004
    Cape Cod
    My father is a nuclear physicist, don't know how much different that is from nuclear engineering.(probbably a lot, but I just though I'd mention it since they both have 'nuclear' in their titles)

    He finds out how old stuff is by using Carbon 14, and stuff. I don't know much about it, since he doesn't talk about it.
  5. gwuMACaddict macrumors 68040


    Apr 21, 2003
    washington dc
    dont do computer science. the old adage... if you have to tack 'science' on to the end of a major, its not really a science... (think political science, exercise science, etc...)

    one of my profs was a nUkeUlar engineer... he used his degree to do consulting work and teach, and i know he loved it. i graduated with a mechanical degree, so i'm a little partial to that. civil gets boring because nothing moves...

    biotech and biomed and chemical are pretty hot engineering disciplines right now though
  6. elfin buddy macrumors 6502a

    elfin buddy

    Sep 16, 2001
    Tuttlingen, Germany
    Nuclear Stuff

    While I haven't formally done any Nuclear Engineering, I did hold a co-op position at AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited) Chalk River Labs for six weeks back two years. It was great fun and I especially loved all the theory and stuff! However, I'm going into Mechanical Engineering this year, and don't intend on becoming any sort of nuclear engineer, even though I'm sure it would still be great if I did.

    I just find myself more interested in mechanics and I eventially want to get into aerospace. Another turnoff was the radiation risk from working in a nuclear facility. I mean, it's not like you'll definitely get cancer or die from working there (infact, it's highly unlikely), it's just that there's a slightly increased risk and there's always the chance of a radiation leak or a terrorist attack or something :rolleyes: Oh, and the security. I thought the security was kinda fun while I was working at AECL (it made me feel important, hahaha), but I'm sure it would get old fast.

    But still, working in a high-security nuclear facility is something cool to have on a resume and people seem to have a kind of reverance for anyone who has "nuclear" in their job title. ;)
  7. Rend It macrumors 6502

    Oct 27, 2003
    United States
    Nuclear engineering became popular a while back because of the rise of nuclear power plants. Before that, people that did anything related to nuclear phenomena were usually trained by the government (e.g., nuclear-powered submarines), or had an education more closely linked to nuclear physics. However, after a few notorious accidents, nuclear power plants aren't quite as popular as they once were. Now, that's not to say that there aren't people even today lobbying for a return to nuclear power. At this point, the success of nuclear power (the fission kind) as an energy source is mostly dependent on politics and public education.

    Back to the issue of which degree...Of all the engineering subfields, Mechanical, Chemical, and Electrical are typically your best bets. None of them are too specialized, so you can find a variety of work with any of those backgrounds. With a degree in nuclear engineering, you're probably going to have to decide between working in a power plant (there aren't that many of the nuclear variety), a submarine, or helping government physicists working on munitions. But, there is a chance you could find very rewarding work in the medical field with radiation therapy. A better path if you like the idea of nuclear medicine is to consider a degree in "Medical Physics". It's a fairly new concept, and so might not be available where you plan to attend. Proton therapy is an exciting new development you might consider looking into.

    An important note is that scientists (mostly physicists) are still working very hard on the fusion problem. Most people don't know this because the research is called "plasma physics", not "fusion physics". So, nuclear energy may become very practical someday. But, it will not be the kind of nuclear energy we know now. Also interesting is that NASA uses a number of different energy sources on its spacecraft, including nuclear technologies. One rather cool idea is to use a radioisotope and a sort of "solar cell". As the radioisotope decays, the "solar cell" absorbs the gamma ray, or the alpha particle (depending on the setup), and then converts the emitted particle into electricity, just as a normal solar cell converts sunlight into electricity.

    Good Luck with whatever degree you choose. By the way, I was an EE undergrad, and am now a Physics grad student.
  8. nizz thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 10, 2004
    north philly
    thanks for the help all, :)

    i was also wondering if anyone has had any experience with the NUPOC program in the navy? would you say this program is good/bad?

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