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DEGREE Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics, PhD

Doctoral degree in nuclear engineering

As a PhD student in nuclear engineering and engineering physics, you’ll gain deeper experience studying the interaction of radiation with matter. With a strong emphasis on engineering and applied science, you’ll be able to focus on any of several areas, including researching, designing, developing and deploying fission reactors; fusion engineering; plasma physics; radiation damage to materials; applied superconductivity and cryogenics; and large-scale computing in engineering science.

At a glance

Nuclear engineering and engineering physics department

of the nation’s few remaining research and teaching nuclear reactors
undergraduate ranking among public universities in nuclear engineering
graduate ranking among public universities in nuclear engineering

Learn more about what information you need to apply.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 15
Spring Deadline September 1
Summer Deadline December 15
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required but may be considered if available.*
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

GRE scores are optional. Applicants may submit GRE scores, but are not required to do so. Applications without scores are not placed at a disadvantage.  However, received scores will be considered as part of our holistic evaluation of applications.


Degree: For admission to graduate study in Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics, an applicant must have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, mathematics, or physical science, and an undergraduate record that indicates an ability to successfully pursue graduate study. International applicants must have a degree comparable to a regionally accredited U.S. bachelor’s degree. All applicants must satisfy requirements that are set forth by the Graduate School

It is highly recommended that students take courses that cover the same material as these UW-Madison courses before entering the program:

Course and Semester Credits                                                       Typical Courses

Differential equations, 3 cr                                                          MATH 319 or MATH 320 

Advanced mathematics, 3 cr                                                      MATH 321

Nuclear physics, 3 cr                                                                    N E 305

Materials science, metallurgy, or solid-state physics, 3 cr        M S & E 350 or M S & E 351

Heat transfer or fluid mechanics, 3 cr                                        CBE 320

Mechanics, 3 cr                                                                            PHYSICS 311 or E M A 202

Descriptions of course content can be accessed through The Guide. Students may enter without having taken these courses. However, in such cases the students must inform their advisors, who will help them plan courses of study that will provide adequate background for our department’s graduate curriculum. Provisions for admission on probation, or as an applicant for more than one master’s degree (e.g., simultaneous MS degrees in two departments) are given in the Graduate School website

GPA: The Graduate School requires a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 basis on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours from the most recent bachelor’s degree. In special cases, students with grade point averages lower than 3.0 who meet all the general requirements of the Graduate School may be considered for admission on probation.

GRE: GRE scores are optional. Applicants may submit GRE scores, but are not required to do so. Applications without scores are not placed at a disadvantage.  However, received scores will be considered as part of our holistic evaluation of applications.

PhD advisor selection process: PhD applicants are encouraged to identify potential faculty advisors and seek a confirmation. Please review the department Research and People websites and contact those whose research interests align with yours. Only faculty members listed with the titles of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, or Professor, can serve as graduate advisors. Do not contact Emeritus faculty, Lecturers, Research Scientists, or Faculty Associates. You are also encouraged to inquire about possible funding opportunities. If a faculty member agrees to be your advisor, ask the person to email an acknowledgment to

Each application must include the following:

  • Graduate School Application
  • Academic transcripts
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume/CV
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • GRE Scores (optional – see below for additional information)
  • English Proficiency Score (if required)
  • Application Fee


To apply to the NEEP program, complete applications, including supportive materials, must be submitted as described below and received by the following deadline dates:

  • Fall Semester—December 15 
  • Spring Semester—September 1 
  • Summer Session—December 15 


Within the online application, upload the undergraduate transcript(s) and, if applicable, the previous graduate transcript. Unofficial copies of transcripts will be accepted for review, but official copies are required for admitted students. Please do not send transcripts or any other application materials to the Graduate School or the Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics department unless requested. Please review the requirements set by the Graduate School for additional information about degrees/transcripts.


In this document, applicants should explain why they want to pursue further education in Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics and discuss which UW faculty members they would be interested in doing research with during their graduate study (see the Graduate School for more advice on how to structure a personal statement).


Upload your resume in your application.


These letters are required from people who can accurately judge the applicant’s academic and/or research performance. It is highly recommended these letters be from faculty familiar with the applicant. Letters of recommendation are submitted electronically to graduate programs through the online application. See the Graduate School for FAQs regarding letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are due by the deadline listed above. 


GRE scores are optional. Applicants may submit GRE scores, but are not required to do so. Applications without scores are not placed at a disadvantage.  However, received scores will be considered as part of our holistic evaluation of applications.


Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score. The UW-Madison Graduate School accepts TOEFL or IETLS scores. Your score will not be accepted if it is more than two years old from the start of your admission term. Country of citizenship does not exempt applicants from this requirement. Language of instruction at the college or university level and how recent the language instruction was taken are the determining factors in meeting this requirement.

For more information regarding minimum score requirements and exemption policy, please see the Graduate School Requirements for Admission.


Application submission must be accompanied by the one-time application fee. It is non-refundable and can be paid by credit card (MasterCard or Visa) or debit/ATM. Additional information about the application fee may be found here (scroll to the ‘Frequently asked questions).

Fee grants are available through the conditions outlined here by the Graduate School.


If you have questions, please contact


If you were previously enrolled as a graduate student in the Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics program, have not earned your degree, but have had a break in enrollment for a minimum of a fall or spring term, you will need to re-apply to resume your studies. Please review the Graduate School requirements for previously enrolled students. Your previous faculty advisor (or another NEEP faculty advisor) must be willing to supply advising support and should e-mail the NEEP Graduate Student Services Coordinator regarding next steps in the process.

If you were previously enrolled in a UW-Madison graduate degree, completed that degree, have had a break in enrollment since earning the degree and would now like to apply for another UW-Madison program; you are required to submit a new student application through the UW-Madison Graduate School online application. For NEEP graduate programs, you must follow the entire application process as described above.


Students currently enrolled as a graduate student at UW-Madison, whether in NEEP or a non-NEEP graduate program, wishing to apply to this degree program should contact the NEEP Graduate Admissions Team to inquire about the process and deadlines several months in advance of the anticipated enrollment term. Current students may apply to change or add programs for any term (fall, spring, or summer).


If you have questions, please contact


Tuition and segregated fee rates are always listed per semester (not for Fall and Spring combined).

View tuition rates

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Offers of financial support from the Department, College, and University are in the form of research assistantships (RAs), teaching assistantships (TAs), project assistantships (PAs), and partial or full fellowships. Prospective PhD students that receive such offers will have a minimum five-year guarantee of support. The funding for RAs comes from faculty research grants. Each professor decides on his or her own RA offers. International applicants must secure an RA, TA, PA, fellowship, or independent funding before admission is final. Funded students are expected to maintain full-time enrollment.  See the program website for additional information.

Additional Resources


For information on International Student Funding and Scholarships visit the ISS website.

In the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics, we strive to design and deploy unique world-class experimental and computational capabilities to translate novel discoveries into transformative technologies. Having a broad range of laboratory facilities and collaborative centers at the right scale for energy and mechanics research is a hallmark of the department. The technologies we develop can solve challenges in energy, health, space, security and many other areas.

View our research

Minimum graduate school requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits approved by the student’s faculty advisor
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 26 credits must be in graduate-level coursework from nuclear engineering, math, physics, chemistry, computer science, or any other engineering department except E P D; Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
This program follows the Graduate School’s policy:
Other Grade Requirements Courses in which grades of BC, C, or below are received cannot be counted toward the degree except as follows: 1) Credits of C will be allowed provided they are balanced by twice as many credits of A or by four times as many credits of AB, 2) Credits of BC will be allowed provided they are balanced by twice as many credits of AB or by an equal number of credits of A.
Assessments and Examinations Ph.D. qualifying examination is required of all students.

After acceptance of the student’s doctoral plan of study, the student must take an oral preliminary examination.

Final oral examination is required at the end of the thesis work.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Graduate School Breadth Requirements 1. All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or graduate/professional certificate. In consultation with, and approval by, the graduate faculty advisor/department, students should select one of the following options if they choose the minor:
• Option A (External Minor): Fulfillment of this minor requires approval of the doctoral minor program. This minor must be outside of the student’s doctoral major program.
• Option B (Distributed Minor): Fulfillment of this minor requires a minimum of 9 credits, total, from two or more departments outside the major in courses selected for their relevance to a particular area of concentration. No course below the 400 level may be used to satisfy this requirement.

2. All doctoral students are also required to complete a graduate faculty advisor/department approved non-technical minor. Please see the NEEP Graduate Handbook for information regarding the four options to complete the non-technical minor.

Students must fulfill the coursework requirements for the nuclear engineering and engineering physics M.S. degree whether receiving the M.S. degree or going directly to the PhD. They must complete an additional 9 credits of technical coursework at the graduate level, beyond the coursework requirement for the MS. Candidates must take three courses numbered 700 or above; must satisfy the Ph.D. technical minor requirement; and must satisfy the PhD non-technical minor requirement.

The candidate is also required to complete, as a graduate student, one course numbered 400 or above in each of the following Areas: fission reactors; plasma physics and fusion; materials; engineering mathematics and computation (see Area Coursework Examples below).

M.S. Coursework Requirements

The following courses, or courses with similar material content, must be taken prior to or during the course of study: N E 427 Nuclear Instrumentation Laboratory; N E 428 Nuclear Reactor Laboratory or N E 526 Laboratory Course in Plasmas; N E 408 Ionizing Radiation or N E/​MED PHYS  569 Health Physics and Biological Effects.

Thesis pathway1: maximum of 12 credits for thesis; at least 8 credits of N E courses numbered 400 or above; remaining credits (also numbered 400 or above) must be in appropriate technical areas2; at least 9 credits must be numbered 500 and above; up to 3 credits can be seminar credits.

Non-Thesis pathway1: at least 15 credits of N E courses numbered 400 or above; remaining 15 credits (also numbered 400 or above) must be in appropriate technical areas2; at least 12 credits must be at numbered 500 or above; up to 3 credits can be seminar credits.

For both the thesis and non-thesis options, only one course (maximum of 3 credits) of independent study (N E 699 Advanced Independent Study, N E 999 Advanced Independent Study) is allowed.


These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.


Appropriate technical areas are: Engineering departments (except Engineering and Professional Development), Physics, Math, Statistics, Computer Science, Medical Physics, and Chemistry. Other courses may be deemed appropriate by a student’s faculty advisor.

Area Coursework Examples

These courses are examples that would meet the requirement and are not meant to be a restricted list of possible courses. The candidate is required to complete one course in each of the following areas:

Fission Reactors
N E 405 Nuclear Reactor Theory3
N E 408 Ionizing Radiation3
N E 411 Nuclear Reactor Engineering3
N E/​MED PHYS  506 Monte Carlo Radiation Transport3
N E/​M E  520 Two-Phase Flow and Heat Transfer3
N E 550 Advanced Nuclear Power Engineering3
N E 555 Nuclear Reactor Dynamics3
N E/​M E  565 Power Plant Technology3
N E/​I SY E  574 Methods for Probabilistic Risk Analysis of Nuclear Power Plants3
Plasma Physics & Fusion
N E/​E C E/​PHYSICS  525 Introduction to Plasmas3
N E/​E C E/​PHYSICS  527 Plasma Confinement and Heating3
N E/​E C E  528 Plasma Processing and Technology3
N E 536 Feasibility St of Power from Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion3
N E/​M S & E  423 Nuclear Engineering Materials3
N E 541 Radiation Damage in Metals3
PHYSICS 551 Solid State Physics3
Engineering Mathematics & Computation
E P/​E M A  547 Engineering Analysis I3
E P/​E M A  548 Engineering Analysis II3
COMP SCI/​MATH  513 Numerical Linear Algebra3
COMP SCI/​MATH  514 Numerical Analysis3
MATH 703 Methods of Applied Mathematics 13

Non-Technical Minor Requirements

Ph.D. candidates must complete one of the following four study options prior to receiving dissertator status. As this is a formal Department requirement, the student should select a Non-Technical Minor early in the program, and must complete it to achieve dissertator status (see below). The Non-Technical Minor must be planned with the help of the candidate’s advisor and must be approved by the Department NonTechnical Minor Advisor except for Study Option IV which must be approved by the Department faculty. A Non-Technical Minor Approval Form is available from the Graduate Student Coordinator, and must be filed prior to submission of the doctoral plan form. Courses numbered below 400 may be used as a part of the Non-Technical Minor.

Study Option I: Technology-Society Interaction Coursework. This option is intended to increase the student’s awareness of the possible effects of technology on society and of the professional responsibilities of engineers and scientists in understanding such side effects. These effects could, for example, involve the influence of engineering on advancement of human welfare, on the distribution of wealth in society, or on environmental and ecological systems.

Suggested courses for fulfilling Option I include:

CIV ENGR 320 Environmental Engineering3
CIV ENGR 423 Air Pollution Effects, Measurement and Control3
ECON/​A A E  474 Economic Problems of Developing Areas3
GEOG/​URB R PL  305 Introduction to the City3-4
GEOG/​URB R PL  505 Urban Spatial Patterns and Theories3
HIST SCI/​MED HIST/​RELIG ST  331 Science, Medicine and Religion3

Study Option IIHumanistic Society Studies Coursework. The basic objectives of this option are to help prepare the student to bridge the gap between C.P. Snow’s "Two Cultures." Snow’s 1959 lecture thesis was that the breakdown of communication between the "two cultures" of modern society – the sciences and the humanities – was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. Study might be designed to give a greater appreciation of the arts such as the classics, music, or painting, or it might be designed, for example, as preparation for translating technical information to the non-technical public.

Suggested areas of study to fulfill Option II include Anthropology, Area Studies, Art, Art History, Classics, Comparative Literature, Contemporary Trends, English (literature), Foreign Languages (literature), Social Work, Sociology, and Speech. Under either Option I or II, the student must take 6 credits of coursework. The courses must be approved by the student’s advisor and the non-technical minor advisor, and the 6 credits should be concentrated in one topical area. Grades in these courses need not meet the Departmental Grade Policy. However, note that all grades in courses numbered 300 or above courses (including grades for Non-Technical Minor courses) are calculated in the Graduate School minimum 3.0 graduation requirement.

Study Option III: Foreign Culture Coursework. This option is intended for the student who desires to live and work in a foreign nation or work with people of a foreign culture. Examples include studies of the history of a foreign nation, of the political stability of a region of the world, of the culture of a particular group within a nation, or of the spoken language of a foreign nation. For Option III the student must take six credits of courses under all of the same conditions and requirements as for Option I and II unless choosing language study. For the latter case, the student must attain a grade of C or better in all courses. If the student has previous knowledge of a language, it is required that either courses beyond the introductory level will be elected or that another language will be elected.

Study Option IV: Technology-Society Interactions Experience. There are many possible technology-society interactions that might be more educational and meaningful for the student as an actual experience than coursework. For example, the student might run for and be elected to a position of alderperson in the city government. Consequently, this option allows the student to pursue a particular aspect of the interaction using his own time and resources.

Study Option IV activity must be planned with the student’s advisor and be approved by the faculty. The effort required should be equivalent to 6 credits of coursework. Upon completion of this program, the student will prepare a written or oral report.

Note: Students from countries in which English is not the native language have inherently fulfilled these non-technical study goals and are exempt from these formal requirements.

Graduate Student Services
3182 Mechanical Engineering
1513 University Ave., Madison, WI 53706

Carl Sovinec, Director of Graduate Studies

View the Graduate Guide for program-specific information on admission, coursework, policies, rules and regulations.

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