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Doctoral Degree

Nuclear Engineering PhD

Students in the field of nuclear engineering desiring to study for the Doctor of Philosophy degree must have a Bachelor of Science or Master of Science from a recognized university with a major in engineering, physics, chemistry, or mathematics. All candidates will be required to demonstrate general competence in a comprehensive examination in the areas of nuclear reactor engineering, radiological engineering, and a chosen specialty area.

View the Graduate Catalog for more information.

Credit Hours Required

  • Students holding only a BS degree, as well as students who receive a concurrent MS degree in Nuclear Engineering while enrolled as a PhD student, must take a minimum of 72 total graduate credit hours, including a minimum of 39 graduate course credit hours.
  • Students holding a non-concurrent MS degree in Nuclear Engineering from UT will be required to take a minimum of 48 total graduate credit hours, including at least 15 credit hours of graduate coursework beyond those applied to their MS degree.
  • Students with MS degrees from other fields or universities will be required to take a minimum of 48 total graduate credit hours, including at least 24 credit hours of graduate coursework.

Required Courses

  • NE 600 (minimum of 24 credit hours)
  • A minimum of 39 credit hours of graduate course work
    • A minimum of 27 credit hours of graduate courses in nuclear engineering at or above the 500-level
      • To include 3 credit hours (1+1+1) of NE 501
      • Excludes thesis, practice project, or dissertation credit
    • A minimum of 12 additional course work credit hours is required, subject to approval by the student’s faculty committee
    • At least 6 credit hours of the above course work must be at the 600-level, with at least 3 of these credit hours in nuclear engineering
    • At the discretion of the student’s dissertation committee and depending on the student’s background, more than 39 credit hours of courses may be required
    • A maximum of 24 credit hours from a master’s degree may be used to satisfy the course work requirements for the PhD
    • A minimum of 39 credit hours of graduate course work beyond the bachelor’s degree and 24-33 credit hours of dissertation (NE 600)

Additional Course Requirements

Students without a BS in nuclear engineering, or the equivalent, must take NE 433 and NE 470 both of which may be taken for graduate credit.

Non-Course Requirements

  • The first part of the comprehensive examination is prepared by the nuclear engineering faculty and consists of 6 hours of written examination that is administered over a two-day period. For review of previous year’s written exams, please email utne@utk.edu. Students are invited to take the written examination after completing approximately 30 credit hours of graduate course work. A student who fails the written examination must take and pass the examination the next time it is offered to remain in the PhD program. Registration for NE 600 is not permitted until the written examination is passed. The second part of the comprehensive examination is completed with the successful oral defense of a written dissertation proposal.
  • A candidate must successfully defend, in an oral examination, all work presented for the degree (all course work and the dissertation).

Radiological Engineering Concentration

Credit Hours Required

  • Students holding only a BS degree, as well as students who receive a concurrent MS degree in Nuclear Engineering while enrolled as a PhD student, must take a minimum of 72 total graduate credit hours, including a minimum of 39 graduate course credit hours.
  • Students holding a non-concurrent MS degree in Nuclear Engineering from UT will be required to take a minimum of 48 total graduate credit hours, including at least 15 credit hours of graduate coursework beyond those applied to their MS degree.
  • Students with MS degrees from other fields or universities will be required to take a minimum of 48 total graduate credit hours, including at least 24 credit hours of graduate coursework.

Required Courses

  • NE 600 (minimum of 24 credit hours)
  • A minimum of 39 credit hours in nuclear engineering (NE) courses numbered 500 and above (or the equivalent).
  • A minimum of 27 credit hours of graduate courses in nuclear engineering at or above the 500-level
  • Students must take NE 490, NE 551, and NE 552
  • Two elective courses, choosing from NE 512, NE 515, NE 542, NE 550, NE 567, or NE 586
  • To include 3 credit hours (1+1+1) of NE 501
    • Excludes thesis, practice project, or dissertation credit
    • A minimum of 12 additional course work credit hours is required, subject to approval by the student’s faculty committee
    • At least 6 credit hours of the above coursework must be at the 600-level, with at least 3 of these credit hours in nuclear engineering
    • At the discretion of the student’s dissertation committee and depending on the student’s background, more than 39 credit hours of courses may be required
    • A maximum of 24 credit hours from a master’s degree may be used to satisfy the course work requirements for the PhD
    • A minimum of 39 credit hours of graduate course work beyond the bachelor’s degree and 24-33 credit hours of dissertation (NE 600)

Energy Science and Engineering Concentration

The Energy Science and Engineering concentration is offered in collaboration with the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. The Bredesen Center unites extensive and complementary resources at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research related to energy.

Students who wish to pursue this concentration will normally have completed 6 Core credit hours, 3 credit hours of Knowledge Breadth, and 6 credit hours of Knowledge Specialization coursework (minimum 15 hours) specified under the Energy Science and Engineering major, (PhD) program in the Graduate Catalog.

Required Courses

  • NE 600 (24 credit hours)
  • Minimum of 30 credit hours in NE courses 500 and above ) or the equivalent chosen in consultation with the major professor and guidance committee. These are exclusive of thesis, practice project, or dissertation credit.
  • Core Curriculum (6 credit hours):
    • ESE 511
    • ESE 512
  • Knowledge Breadth Curriculum (3 credit hours): Select one course from one of the following areas: political, social, legal, ethical, and security issues related to energy (e.g., POLS, PHYS, ESE) entrepreneurship, leadership, and management (e.g., IE, ME, MGT, ESE). Additional courses may be selected in consultation with the Bredesen Center’s Director.
  • Knowledge Specialization Curriculum for Domain Science (6 credit hours): Choose two courses from participating department as defined in the Bredesen Center Graduate Student Handbook. Bioenergy and biofuels (e.g., EEB, MICR, BCMB, CBE, LFSC, PLSC), Cross-cutting energy sciences (e.g., MICR, ECE, CHEM, PHYS, MATH, STAT), Distributed energy and grid management (e.g., ECE), Energy conversion and storage (e.g., CBE, CHEM, ME, MSE, PHYS), Energy materials (e.g., MSE, PHYS), Environmental and climate sciences related to energy (e.g., GEOL, MICR, BCMB, EEB, ESS, FORS, GEOL, LFSC, MICR, PLSC, ENVE, FWF), Nuclear energy (e.g., NE, CHEM, ME, PHYS), Renewable energy (MATH, CBE, ENVE, ME, STAT), Transportation sciences (e.g., CBE, CE, ECE, ME). Additional courses may be selected in consultation with the major professor or research advisor.
  • ESE 599 – Seminar (1 credit hour) taken three times for 3 credit hours.

Nuclear Safety Concentration

This concentration is offered in collaboration with the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. The Bredesen Center unites extensive and complementary resources at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research related to energy.

Required Courses

  • NE 600 ( minimum of 24 credit hours)
  • A minimum of 39 credit hours in nuclear engineering (NE) courses numbered 500 and above (or the equivalent) A minimum of 27 credit hours of graduate courses in nuclear engineering at or above the 500-level
  • Students must take NE 421, NE 585, and NE 586
  • Two elective courses, choosing from NE 486, NE 542, NE 573, NE 582, or NE 584
  • To include 3 credit hours (1+1+1) of NE 501 – Graduate Seminar
  • Excludes thesis, practice project, or dissertation credit A minimum of 12 additional graduate coursework credit hours is required, subject to approval by the student’s faculty committee At least 6 credit hours of the above coursework must be at the 600-level, with at least 3 of these credit hours in nuclear engineering At the discretion of the student’s dissertation committee and depending on the student’s background, more than 39 credit hours of courses may be required. A maximum of 24 credit hours from a master’s degree may be used to satisfy the coursework requirements for the PhD. A minimum of 39 credit hours of graduate coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree and 24-33 credit hours of dissertation (NE 600).

Nuclear Space Science and Engineering Concentration

This concentration is offered in collaboration with the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. The Bredesen Center unites extensive and complementary resources at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research related to energy.

Required Courses

  • NE 600 (minimum of 24 credit hours)
  • A minimum of 39 credit hours in nuclear engineering (NE) courses numbered 500 and above (or the equivalent) A minimum of 27 credit hours of graduate courses in nuclear engineering at or above the 500-level
  • Students must take NE 512, NE 518, and NE 618
  • Two elective courses, choosing from NE 517, NE 520, NE 540, NE 599, ME 599, AE 581, AE 566, AE 599 – Orbital Mechanics, AE 599 Spacecraft Systems Engineering, or AE 682
  • To include 3 credit hours (1+1+1) of NE 501 – Graduate Seminar
  • Excludes thesis, practice project, or dissertation credit A minimum of 12 additional graduate coursework credit hours is required, subject to approval by the student’s faculty committee At least 6 credit hours of the above coursework must be at the 600-level, with at least 3 of these credit hours in nuclear engineering At the discretion of the student’s dissertation committee and depending on the student’s background, more than 39 credit hours of courses may be required. A maximum of 24 credit hours from a master’s degree may be used to satisfy the coursework requirements for the PhD. A minimum of 39 credit hours of graduate coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree and 24-33 credit hours of dissertation (NE 600).

Radiation Instrumentation Interdisciplinary Graduate Education

The Radiation instrumentation Interdisciplinary Graduate Education (RIDGE) program began in the 2015-2016 academic year in order to establish a closer connection between engineering departments that contribute to radiation instrumentation systems research and development. The program is geared toward education of PhD-seeking students through coursework and research. Through this program a student may earn either a MS degree in nuclear engineering, computer engineering, or materials science engineering along the way to the nuclear engineering PhD, while also receiving a certificate in Nuclear Security Science and Analysis. A sample curriculum along with other suggested milestones for a student seeking a PhD in nuclear engineering can be found on the RIDGE website. For more information about this program please contact Jason Hayward.