Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering

Course Requirements and Residency

There are no formal course requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Course requirements are established solely by the doctoral committee. Typically, 45-55 credits of 400-500 level courses (including your M.S. program) plus NucE 600 credits are needed. About half of the course credits should be in nuclear engineering courses and the other half in other disciplines, such as math, physics, or another engineering field.

A student entering the Ph.D. program without an M.S. in NucE must meet the course requirements for an M.S. in NucE. Courses are: NucE 301, NucE 302, NucE 450, NucE 403, and six credits from NucE 500-level courses, excluding NucE 596 courses.

You must spend at least two consecutive semesters in a twelve-month period as a full-time registered student, during which time you are engaged in full-time academic work at the Penn State University Park campus, before taking your comprehensive exam.

Ph.D. Candidacy

To become a doctoral candidate, you must first be approved for candidacy by the graduate faculty. This approval is based partly on the results of a candidacy examination given to assess your potential to excel in Ph.D. studies and conduct high-level research.

The Graduate School requirements for the candidacy examination are:

  • The examination must be taken within three semesters of entry into the doctoral program, not including summer sessions.
  • You must be registered as a full-time or part-time degree student for the semester in which the examination is taken.
  • You are required to demonstrate a high level of competence in the use of the English language, including reading, writing and speaking.

We strongly encourage you to take your candidacy exams as early as possible. The exam will be administered each fall and spring semester. Dates will be announced by the Graduate Programs Office by e-mail to all graduate students.

The candidacy exam may include questions on all areas of basic engineering including: radiation protection, nuclear science, reactor physics, heat transfer, radiation detection, reactor kinetics, nuclear systems, radiochemistry, and computational methods. The oral exam will be scheduled no sooner than one week following the written exam but as soon as practical thereafter. The topic is to be related to your field of interest but different from the thesis topic.

Comprehensive Exam

The purpose of the comprehensive examination is to demonstrate that you are qualified to successfully complete the research phase of the program. This requires that you:

  1. Have substantially completed the program of courses approved by your committee with a minimum grade point average of 3.00;
  2. Have satisfied the English proficiency requirement; and
  3. Have spent at least two consecutive semesters in a twelve-month period as a full-time registered student during which time you were engaged in full-time academic work at the Penn State University Park campus (see Graduate Bulletin).

The type of examination is determined by the doctoral committee but usually consists of a literature review and thesis proposal. Additional questions can cover the major and related areas of study.

Dissertation Defense

The purpose of this examination is for students to defend their Ph.D. dissertation. It is the responsibility of the doctoral candidate to provide a copy of the thesis to each member of the doctoral committee at least one week before the date of the scheduled examination. Other requirements are as follows:

  1. The final oral examination may not be scheduled until at least three months have elapsed after the comprehensive exam was passed.
  2. Two weeks' notice must be given to the Graduate School for scheduling.
  3. You must see the Graduate Programs Office Staff Assistant to schedule this exam and complete the required paperwork.
  4. The deadline for holding the exam is ten weeks before commencement. This date is listed in a calendar produced by the Graduate Programs Office, which you can get from a staff assistant.
  5. You must be registered full- or part-time during the semester in which you take the final oral exam.

The final examination is an oral examination administered and evaluated by the entire doctoral committee. It consists of an oral presentation of the thesis by the candidate and a period of questions and responses. The examination is related largely to the thesis, but it may cover the candidate’s whole field of study without regard to courses that have been taken either at this University or elsewhere. The defense of the thesis should be well-prepared including any appropriate visual aids. The portion of the exam in which the thesis is presented is open to the public.

Contact Information

  • Beth Huber
    Nuclear Engineering Graduate Programs Office
    205 Hallowell Building
    814-863-6938
    bah41@psu.edu

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About

The Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State is one of the top ranked nuclear engineering programs in the United States. The department distinguishes itself from other programs with a strong focus on experimental research in power, science, security and safety. The actively growing department leads four educational programs for students pursuing a bachelor of science, a master of science, a master of engineering or a doctoral degree. The department also houses the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor, the country’s first and longest operating licensed nuclear reactor. The construction and operation of the reactor introduced nuclear engineering to Penn State, and, in doing so, harnessed research and educational opportunities as key strengths for the department. See how we’re inspiring change and impacting tomorrow at nuce.psu.edu.

Department of Nuclear Engineering

205 Hallowell Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2519