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HARNESS AND CONTROL NUCLEAR ENERGY TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, AND SOLVE PROBLEMS.

Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences (NERS)

nuc·le·ar en·gi·neer·ing and ra·di·o·lo·gi·cal sci·enc·es

The control and use of energy to solve various engineering problems.

Also Known As: Radiation Engineer, Medical Physicist, Medical Imaging Engineer, Radiological Defense Officer, Nuclear Design Engineer, Nuclear Reactor Inspector, Radioactive Waste Management Officer, Weapons Designer, Plasma Treatment Specialist, Atomic Process Engineer, +10,000 more

A series of optic lenses are arranged in a metal box with wires

WHY NERS
AT MICHIGAN?

  • No. 1

    US News and World Report

  • 8:1

    Student to Faculty Ratio

  • 75%

    of students admitted to graduate/PhD school (2017/2018)

  • 25

    students: Average Class size

  • 58%

    of students earn departmental scholarships

A Student uses a Microsoft Hololens headset to demonstrate use of augmented reality to detect the presence of nuclear weapons

What do Nuclear Engineers and Radiological Scientists do?

You may have predicted that we are responsible for the development and maintenance of nuclear reactors, but we’re also doing vastly different, incredible things: performing and maximizing the success of nuclear fusion to be a sustainable energy source; studying the effect of radiation on materials and on the human body to improve patient care and worker safety; using plasma to purify water; and protecting regular people like you and me from the threat of nuclear weapons.

ACADEMIC FOCUS AREAS

  • Fission Systems and Radiation Transport

    Develop new reactors, improve existing ones, and build a better fuel system for the future. We are on the fastest path to zero- as in zero carbon emissions- and you could be a part of the major harnessing nuclear technology to provide clean and sustainable energy to power our world.

    Courses: Nuclear Power Reactors, Quantum Mechanics in Neutron-Nuclear Reactors

  • Materials and Radiation Effect

    We can’t have old and worn down equipment processing nuclear fuel. Through this focus area, you will learn how radiation affects materials, specifically those materials that go into making reactors. You are responsible for increasing durability and easing the aging process of reactors, and then figuring out how to decommission those that are no longer safe.

    Courses: Nuclear Engineering Materials, Interaction of Radiation & Matter, Nuclear Waste Management, Transportation of Radioactive Materials

  • Radiation Measurements and Imaging

    Medical Diagnosis and Treatment

    Follow radiation as it courses through the human body targeting cancer tumors and observe the side effects of this raw energy on neighboring non-cancerous cells. It’s your job to balance these two forces- to keep normal cells safe and to kill cancer cells help patients begin their count for remission.

    Courses: Engineering Principles of Radiation Imaging, Medical Radiological Health Engineering, Physics of Diagnostic Radiology, Radiological Dose Assessment & Response

    Nuclear Non-Proliferation Security

    Work for the Department of Defense or Homeland Security protecting our citizens from nuclear weapons. Design radiation detection systems to be used in airports and other public hubs to keep people safe.

    Courses: Nuclear Measurements Laboratory, Detection Techniques of Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Radiation Shielding Design

  • Plasmas and Nuclear Fusion

    Use plasma to purify water for drinking or to promote plant growth or take things to the atomic scale and discover how nuclear fusion can be carried out successfully on a scale large enough to make it a viable option for alternative energy sources.

    Courses: Plasma Generation & Diagnostics Laboratory, Fusion Reactor Technology, Nuclear Fuels, Computational Plasma Physics, Theory of Plasma Confinement in Fusion Systems

  • Areas in which a student, through the use of technical and free electives and in consultation with their advisor, could decide to focus.

Areas in which a student, through the use of technical and free electives and in consultation with their advisor, could decide to focus.

Graduate receiving hood during ceremony

Sequential Undergraduate/Graduate Studies Program (SUGS)

Complete your bachelor’s and master’s degrees in only five years with SUGS by taking some graduate-level classes during your undergraduate years, so you can save yourself one semester and complete the masters with only two additional semesters.

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Sample Course List

First-Year

First-Year

  • Fall Semester
    • CoE Core
      Calculus I (Math 115)
    • CoE Core
      Engineering 100
    • CoE Core
      Chemistry (125/126 and 130 or 210 and 211)
    • Elective
      Intellectual Breadth
  • Winter Semester
    • CoE Core
      Calculus II (Math 116)
    • CoE Core
      Engineering 101
    • CoE Core
      Physics (140 and 141)
    • Elective
      Intellectual Breadth

Sophomore Year

Sophomore Year

  • Fall Semester
    • CoE Core
      Calculus III (Math 215)
    • CoE Core
      Physics (240 and 241)
    • Elective
      General Elective
    • Elective
      Intellectual Breadth
  • Winter Semester
    • CoE Core
      Differential Equations (Math 216)
    • Major Requirement
      Engineering Materials (MATSCIE 220/250)
    • Major Requirement
      Fundamentals of NERS (NERS 250)
    • Elective
      General Elective

Junior Year

Junior Year

  • Fall Semester
    • Major Requirement
      Circuits (EECS 215/314)
    • Major Requirement
      Thermodynamics (MECHENG 235)
    • Major Requirement
      Elements of NERS I (NERS 311)
    • Major Requirement
      Probability in NERS (NERS 320)
  • Winter Semester
    • Major Requirement
      Elements of NERS II (NERS 312)
    • Major Requirement
      Nuclear Instrumentation Lab (NERS 315)
    • Major Requirement
      Fluid Mechanics in Nuclear Engineering (NERS 344)
    • Elective
      General Electives
    • Elective
      Intellectual Breadth

Senior Year

Senior Year

  • Fall Semester
    • Major Requirement
      Nuclear Reactor Theory I (NERS 441)
    • Major Requirement
      Thermo/Hydrodynamics in Nuclear Systems (NERS 444)
    • Major Requirement
      NERS Elective
    • Major Requirement
      NERS Elective
    • Elective
      General Elective
  • Winter Semester
    • Major Requirement
      NERS Laboratory Course
    • Major Requirement
      NERS Design Course
    • Major Requirement
      NERS Elective
    • Major Requirement
      Technical Elective

Individualized schedules will be made by students in consultation with an advisor who will tailor their classes to better fit the student's needs.

Practice Your Purpose

Apply the skills you are learning in class to the real world.

Student Engagement

In Xiamen, China: a series of white buildings with sloped red roofs and a wide-base green-roofed building
Clean Energy in Xiamen, China

Professional Development

American Nuclear Society Logo
American Nuclear Society
Two professors and a student smile at the camera. The student is holding an award certificate received at the ANS Conference
American Nuclear Society National Conference
Students sit around a large table with laptops having a discussion
Institute of Nuclear Materials Management
Alpha Nu Sigma Logo
Alpha Nu Sigma Society
Health Physics Society Logo
Health Physics Society

Research

Headshot of Gary Was
Gary Was: Extending the Life of Nuclear Reactors
READ MORE
A peek through a glass lens at the top of a metal tube looking down onto a copper mesh
The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors
READ MORE
John Foster Headshot
John Foster: Purifying Water with Plasma
READ MORE
Headshot of Alexander Thomas
Alexander Thomas: Center for Ultrafast Optical Science
READ MORE
Zhong He Headshot
Zhong He: Orion Radiation Measurement Group
READ MORE
Sara Pozzi Headshot
Sara Pozzi: Detection for Nuclear Nonproliferation Group
READ MORE

Alumni Biographies

Each of these alumni are real people who were once in your shoes, deciding a major. Explore their path and how a Michigan education set their life in motion.

  • Ciara Sivels headshot
    • Ciara Sivels
    • Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Paul Fessler headshot
    • Paul Fessler
    • DTE Energy
  • Y Andy Boucher headshot
    • Y. Andy Boucher
    • H3D, Inc
  • Kristine Madden headshot
    • Kristine Madden
    • International Atomic Energy Agency
  • Hunter Phillip Smith headshot
    • Hunter Phillip Smith
    • Holtec International
  • Xiaojin Shen headshot
    • Xiaojin Shen
    • Varian Medical Systems
  • Joel Kulesza headshot
    • Joel A. Kulesza
    • Los Alamos National Laboratory
Ciara Sivels headshot

    Ciara Sivels

    Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Paul Fessler headshot

    Paul Fessler

    DTE Energy

Y Andy Boucher headshot

    Y. Andy Boucher

    H3D, Inc

Kristine Madden headshot

    Kristine Madden

    International Atomic Energy Agency

Hunter Phillip Smith headshot

    Hunter Phillip Smith

    Holtec International

Xiaojin Shen headshot

    Xiaojin Shen

    Varian Medical Systems

Joel Kulesza headshot

    Joel A. Kulesza

    Los Alamos National Laboratory

Not sure what major to choose?

Tap in to our network of 85k+ engineering alumni. Do you have questions you’d like answered? Our alumni are always eager to talk about engineering.

Please email engin-alumni@umich.edu for more information.

SPEAK TO AN ALUM
A series of optical lens parts lie scattered in a large metal box

Industries and Occupations

  • National Laboratories
  • Nuclear Power Plants
  • Medicine
  • Medical Physics
  • Water Treatment
  • Environmental Studies
  • Agricultural Research
A professor runs a sample through a plutonium and uranium detector in made up of metal cylinders pointing at the sample

Companies

  • Homeland Security
  • Department of Defense
  • Naval Nuclear Lab
  • Nukem Technologies
  • EnergySolutions
  • Victoreen
  • Emergence Teleradiology
  • Elektra
  • Merge Healthcare
  • US Nuclear Corp

Find salary information at the Bureau of Labor Statistics

$63,230 -U-M NERS graduates average starting salaries (ECRC 2017-2018 Annual Report)

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LEARN MORE

Ciara Sivels headshot

Ciara Sivels

  • Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Senior Professional Staff

University of Michigan, BSE Chemical Engineering 2001
University of Michigan, MSE Biomedical Engineering, 2004
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, BS Nuclear Science and Engineering, 2013
University of Michigan, MSE Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, 2015
University of Michigan, PhD Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, 2018
Career Summary

During my time at Michigan I learned how to use a Monte Carlo radiation transport tool, MCNP. I also was the GSI for two courses using this code so I gained a lot of experience troubleshooting and teaching others to use it. The experiences at Michigan allowed me to acquire the job at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) since MCNP is required for my work.

I’ve participated in many interviews talking about my experience. I was the Black History Month speaker at WPI in February 2019. Currently at APL, I volunteer with the STEM office. I also participate in the National Society of Black Engineers DC Professionals chapter.

Favorite Events

My favorite events were the ones where we got to dress up like the Graduate Student Ball by RSG.

Favorite Student Orgs

I was very active in Society of Minority Engineers and Scientists- Graduate Component (SMES-G). Xplore Engineering and Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) were my favorite outreach programs.

Advice to Students

Have work life balance but always focus on your goals.

Paul Fessler headshot

Paul Fessler

  • DTE Energy
  • Chief Nuclear Officer

University of Michigan, BS Nuclear Engineering, 1974
University of Michigan, MS Nuclear Engineering, 1976
University of Michigan, MBA, 1984
Career Summary

Looking back, it seems like a long journey. I started working at a coal plant because nuclear construction was in a pause at the time. I wasn’t thrilled but looking back, this added greatly to my experience because it was so different to me and would come back to help me in the future.

When I went to nuclear I was a test engineer which was one of the most enjoyable periods of my career. Testing and starting up plant systems was very satisfying and a great learning experience. Over the next 15 years I spent time in many areas of plant operation: operations, maintenance, training and engineering, eventually becoming plant manager. During that time I also went through the training to become licensed as a Senior Reactor Operator. The time and effort to become an SRO was just as hard as getting my BS but a lot more intense.

After several years as plant manager I was asked to go to back to Fossil Generation to help improve fossil plant performance. I became VP of Fossil Generation and eventually SVP of Electric Operations, responsible for all Fossil Generation and Electric Distribution. Recently, I was asked to come back to Nuclear as the Chief Nuclear Officer.

Every job I’ve had I viewed as a challenge and learning opportunity. Over my career I’ve learned that knowing the technical side of your job is important but my success, as I look over my career, and what led to my opportunities to move was more about engaging and getting the most out of the people I worked with and who worked for me. The hardest work I have had was about changing an organizations’ performance or culture. Dealing with equipment, solving technical problems isn’t easy but there is a defined methodology, not so with people.

Reflection on Time Spent at U-M

The entire college experience was the best time of my life. The freedom I had to explore my interests and connect with such a variety of people is something that becomes much harder to do as you enter the workforce. Socially, there was such a variety of things to do, it seemed endless.

Advice to Students

My advice to anyone ready to graduate and getting ready for a career: seek out ways to challenge yourself. I am very impressed with, and remember, those people who step up and volunteer or ask for challenging/new assignments, even though outside their normal area of responsibility. Your career can go in many directions, very different than you may have planned. What I look for when opportunities arise are articulate, capable people willing to accept a challenge. That is what allowed a Nuclear Engineer to run a fossil fleet and a distribution system that serves 2.3 million people.

Y Andy Boucher headshot

Y. Andy Boucher

  • H3D, Inc
  • Sales Director

University of Michigan, BSE Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, 2008
University of Michigan, MSE Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, 2009
University of Michigan, PhD Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, 2013
Career Summary

After my time at the University of Michigan, I moved to H3D, a startup company that spun out of the research group I was in at the University of Michigan. I started as the product manager, where I interacted with customers to understand their needs for the radiation detection equipment that was designed, manufactured and sold by H3D. Additionally, I was responsible for managing the products through the development process and during continuous improvement after the product was no longer a prototype. As product manager, I was heavily involved with the sales team and as the company grew over the years, I took on more and more responsibilities related to the sales process, such as management of our distributors. Eventually, H3D’s sales director moved to another position within the company and I was selected to take over as Sales Director.

Favorite Student Orgs

As a student, I was heavily involved in Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor’s society. This was a great way to meet other students outside of my major as without joining a large society with a variety of students from different majors, I would have spent all my time with fellow nuclear engineers. So I would suggest students to be cognizant of whether their major allows them to get much cross-over with other majors and if not to join an organization(s) that allow them to meet people outside their major.

Advice to Students

Some of my best memories from school were attending various sporting events: hockey, basketball and football games. It wasn’t easy to balance homework and other educational responsibilities with the time required to attend all of these sporting events, but I would encourage students to try to take time to attend as much extracurricular events as possible. And if you aren’t into sports, then take advantage of musicals, plays, concerts or whatever it is that you enjoy as the university can offer all of it.

Kristine Madden headshot

Kristine Madden

  • International Atomic Energy Agency
  • Nuclear Safeguards Inspector

University of Michigan, BSE Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences
Agency Safeguards Training- International Atomic Energy Agency Introductory Course
MSt Candidate, International Relations, University of Cambridge, U.K.
Career Summary

Kristine Madden has over a decade of experience in the international regulatory affairs sector. Kristine is currently a nuclear safeguards inspector at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an autonomous international organization within the United Nations system. At the IAEA, Kristine verifies Member States activity in the Non-Proliferation Treaty to ensure that nuclear material is not being diverted from peaceful to military purposes and nuclear technology is not being misused. Prior, Kristine worked on spent fuel management in the US, UK and Ukraine, and most notably at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant; regulatory affairs, specifically related to the development of international design safety requirements for small modular reactors and dry fuel storage systems; and nuclear power plant operations and engineering. Kristine also has experience developing human performance and leadership development programs for U.S. based utilities.

In addition to her work experience, Kristine also dedicates her time to investing in the education of tomorrow’s leaders and climate action. Kristine founded a non-profit in Philadelphia focused on providing free tutoring to dyslexic students in inner city schools using the Orton-Gillingham method. As head of climate change for the International Youth Nuclear Congress, Kristine develops, implements and coordinates activities for and participation in clean energy and climate change fora.

Awards Received
  • IAEA General Conference, UAE Side Event, Nuclear Power: The Way Forward and Young Professionals, Moderator and Co-organizer, Vienna, Austria, 2018
  • North American Young Generation in Nuclear Future Award, 2017
  • Keynote Speaker, Annual International Small Modular Reactor Development Forum and New Build Conference, 2016
  • University of Michigan College of Engineering Outstanding Recent Alumni Award, 2016
  • United States of America State Department Junior Professional Officer Program to the United Nations recipient
  • Holtec International Meritorious Award, 2014
  • Entergy Impact Award, 2012
  • Entergy Continuous Improvement Award, 2010, 2011, 2012
What do you like to do outside of work?

I love to travel and read as both broaden my mindset, expand my imagination and helps me better understand other cultures and how we can learn from their successes and failures. Thus far, I have travelled to 49 countries, and I usually bring my Michigan flag along for a token photo. I’ve been featured on the UM Instagram account about a half dozen times now – it’s an amusing tradition. I also enjoy participating in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, downhill skiing and water sports.

Reflection on Time Spent at U-M

My favorite U-M pastimes include football Saturday; cheering on my best friend, Chisako Sugiyama, a member of the varsity women’s tennis team, at her matches; and enjoying a warm spring day on the Diag with friends. I still make it back at least once a year to enjoy a football game, Pizza Bob’s chipati and a night out with Good Time Charley and Rick. While I don’t mind missing all-nighters in the acclaimed nuclear engineering hangout spot of the third floor of the Duderstadt, I do miss the camaraderie associated with those nights.

Advice to Students

Lessen your classroom load for a semester and enjoy the extra time spent with friends at a university game, picnicking on the Diag, or sledding in the Arb. Those are the memories you will carry forward with you.

Hunter Phillip Smith headshot

Hunter Phillip Smith

  • Holtec International
  • Nuclear Engineer

University of Michigan, BSE Nuclear Engineering, 2016
University of Michigan, MSE Nuclear Engineering, 2017
Career Summary

In the last two years of my schooling I worked closely with Dr. Thomas Downer. The projects he had me work on helped me become much more intimate with the industry standard modeling codes (e.g., SERPENT, PARCS) than if I had only taken the senior design course, etc. This helped me stand out and gave me a good basis for learning other codes (MCNP).

Advice to Students

Get involved with a professor and see if there is a project you can help them out on over the summer, etc. They are very knowledgeable and know a lot of people. Think about what you might like to do after you graduate and find a professor that does something like that. Also, try to get at least one internship. This will make you a prime candidate, and you will be able to pick and choose job offers.

Xiaojin Shen headshot

Xiaojin Shen

  • Varian Medical Systems
  • System Engineering Physicist

Nizhny Novgorod State Technical University, BS Atomic Physics and Thermal Engineering, 2015
University of Michigan, MSE Nuclear Engineering, 2017
Career Summary

Since childhood, I have been curious about science and technology innovation, especially physics to explain the physical property and phenomena of the things in the world. As I grow old, life events triggered me to seek practical solutions that may improve or save people’s lives. Soon after I got my masters degree in 2017, a dramatic event made a huge impact on my later life; both my grandma and aunt died of lung cancer, one after another only 5 months apart. While in shock and deep sadness, I wanted to devote myself to something that can attack this devastating disease. I immediately took a position as a research assistant to join a cancer research program in the school of medicine at the Radiation Oncology Department of the University of Michigan, conducting research under Professor Yue Cao and collaborated with Professor Martha Matuszak. In order to make a more direct and immediate impact, I started looking for opportunities in the radiation oncology industry.

My research experiences background at the University of Michigan helps me a lot to stand out from the applicants for the industries. I am learning in an engineering role in the industries and I am passionate about research and development especially in a physics-related discipline which aligned with my major. Thanks to UM and NERS for providing me with a lot of learning, research, and cross-disciplined study opportunities, that I also remembered during the summer of 2016, I joined a JUACEP program through UM to conduct research in professor Youichi Enokida’s lab at Nagoya University in Japan. I can understand this world more by doing the projects, in the meantime, I would gradually realize what I am interested in and curious about by giving the direction on how you can become better.

Reflection on Time Spent U-M

I am always ready to help other people who are in needs. For example, when I was in high school, there was a huge earthquake in Sichuan of China in 2008. At that time, I volunteered to support those affected local students to recover from the disaster, one of the activities including writing letters to answer the questions from those students in math, physics and chemistry subjects. In my spare time, I like hiking, running, mountain and rock climbing and have some other fun activities.

Favorite Student Orgs

UM SF Alumni, UM Silicon Valley Alumni, NERS ANS students chapter, Student Astronomical Society, CEN

Favorite Classes

As English is not my native language, I may highlight the courses from the ELI department, such as academic writing, research paper writing, pronunciation courses, etc.

Joel Kulesza headshot

Joel A. Kulesza

  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • R&D Scientist

University of Michigan, BSE Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences, 2006
University of Tennessee, MS Nuclear Engineering, 2011
University of Michigan, MSE Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences, 2016
University of Michigan, Graduate Certificate Computational Discovery & Engineering, 2016
University of Michigan, PhD Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences, 2018
Career Summary

Throughout my roles at various companies, I’ve had the opportunity to keep learning new technical and communication skills. This has helped me stay interested in my work, expand my professional network, advance my career, and provide benefit to my employer. After eight years in industry I returned to graduate school to refocus on my technical skills while incorporating some of my experience gained from having worked in industry. Combining practice and theory has helped me improve my understanding of both and has positioned me to continue learning while performing research and development in my chosen field.

Career Timeline
  • Westinghouse Electric Company
  • Knoll’s Atomic Power Laboratory
  • University of Michigan
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
Advice to Students

Be curious, be interested, be proactive, be well rounded, and guide your own career in a fulfilling and impactful direction.