A broad program of instruction and research is offered in the principles of the interaction of radiation with matter and their applications, and in several areas of engineering physics. The program has strong engineering and applied science components. It emphasizes several areas of activity, including the research, design, development, and deployment of fission reactors; fusion engineering; plasma physics; radiation damage to materials; applied superconductivity and cryogenics; and large-scale computing in engineering science.

The master's degree may be pursued as a terminal degree in the fission area and in various engineering physics areas, but it is not generally recommended as a final degree in fusion research; students interested in fusion should plan to pursue the Ph.D. degree. About 40 percent of the current graduate students hold undergraduate degrees in nuclear engineering, about 40 percent in physics, and about 20 percent in other disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and materials science.

The department is considered to have one of the top five nuclear engineering programs in the nation over the last 40 years. It incorporates several research organizations including the Wisconsin Institute of Nuclear Systems, the Pegasus Toroidal Experiment Program, the Fusion Technology Institute, and the Center for Plasma Theory and Computation.

Research may be performed in areas including next generation fission reactor engineering; fluid and heat transfer modeling for transient analysis; reactor monitoring and diagnostics; fuel cycle analysis; magnetic and inertial confinement fusion reactor engineering, including the physics of burning plasmas, plasma-wall interactions, neutron transport, tritium breeding, radiation damage, and liquid-metal heat transfer; experimental and theoretical studies of plasmas including radio frequency heating, magnetic confinement, plasma instabilities, and plasma diagnostics; superconducting magnets and cryogenics; and theoretical and experimental studies of the damage to materials in fission and fusion reactors.

The department places considerable emphasis on establishing research teams or group research, as well as traditional research activity by individual faculty members and their students. The groups frequently involve faculty, scientific staff, and graduate students from several departments, adding a strong interdisciplinary flavor to the research.

Students sometimes perform thesis work at national laboratories such as Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Graduate School sets minimum requirements for admissions. Academic program admission requirements are often more rigorous than those set by the Graduate School. Please check the program website for details and admissions deadlines.

Graduate School Admissions

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

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 processes related to funding.

Program Resources

Admission and funding are separate decisions. Not all admitted students are offered support. International applicants must secure a research assistantship, teaching assistantship, fellowship, or independent funding before admission is final. A portion of the top domestic applicants are invited to visit Madison in March. The funding for RAs comes from faculty research grants. Each professor decides on his or her own RA offers. Funded students are expected to maintain full time enrollment.  See the program website for additional information.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

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

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 26 of the required 51 credits must be in graduate-level coursework from nuclear engineering, math, physics, chemistry, computer science, or any other engineering department except E P D; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
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.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a 10-credit minor and an approved non-technical minor program.

Required COURSES

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 Ph.D. They must complete an additional 9 credits of technical coursework at the graduate level, beyond the coursework requirement for the M.S. Candidates must take three 700-level courses; must satisfy the Ph.D. technical minor requirement; and must satisfy the Ph.D. non-technical minor requirement.

The candidate is also required to complete, as a graduate student, one course at the 400 level 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 track1: maximum of 12 credits for thesis; at least 8 credits of N E courses 400 level or above; remaining credits (also 400 level or above) must be in appropriate technical areas; at least 9 credits must be 500 level and above; up to 3 credits can be seminar credits.

Non-Thesis track1: at least 15 credits of N E courses at the 400 level or above; remaining 15 credits (also 400 level or above) must be in appropriate technical areas; at least 12 credits must be at the 500 level 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.

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 Services Office, 3182 Mechanical Engineering, and must be filed prior to submission of the doctoral plan form. Courses below the 400 level 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
GEOSCI/​ENVIR ST  410 Minerals as a Public Problem3
HIST SCI/​MED HIST/​RELIG ST  331 Science, Medicine and Religion3-4

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 300 level 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: Foreign students from countries in which English is not the native tongue have inherently fulfilled these non-technical study goals and are exempt from these formal requirements.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

The Graduate Program Handbook is the repository for all of the program's policies and requirements.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions toward the minimum graduate degree credit requirement and the minimum graduate coursework (50%) requirement. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

With faculty approval, students who have received their undergraduate degree from UW–Madison may apply up to 7 credits numbered 400 or above toward the minimum graduate degree credit requirement. This work would not be allowed to count toward the 50% graduate coursework minimum unless taken at the 700 level or above. No credits can be counted toward the minimum graduate residence credit requirement. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

With faculty approval, students who have received an ABET-accredited undergraduate degree (not including UW–Madison) may be eligible to apply up to 7 credits of their undergraduate coursework toward the Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement. No credits can be counted toward the Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement, nor the Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement. 

Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count up to 15 credits of coursework numbered 400 or above taken as a UW–Madison special student toward the minimum graduate residence credit requirement, and the minimum graduate degree credit requirement. UW–Madison coursework taken as a University Special student would not be allowed to count toward the 50% graduate coursework minimum unless taken at the 700 level or above. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


A semester GPA below 3.0 will result in the student being placed on academic probation. If a semester GPA of 3.0 is not attained during the subsequent semester of full time enrollment (or 12 credits of enrollment if enrolled part-time) the student may be dismissed from the program or allowed to continue for one additional semester based on advisor appeal to the Graduate School.


Each student is required to meet with his or her advisor prior to registration every semester.


15 credits

Time Constraints

The Ph.D. qualifying examination should be first taken no later than completion of the M.S. requirements, or the beginning of the fifth semester of graduate study, whichever comes first. Students entering the program with a master’s degree in E M A, E P or N E from another institution, and taking the qualifying exam in that same major, must take the exam by the beginning of their third semester.

Students must submit the doctoral plan of study one month before the end of the semester following the one in which the qualifying exam is passed.

Candidates are expected to pass the Ph.D. preliminary examination no later than the end of the third year of graduate study, or by the end of the second regular semester following the one in which the Ph.D. qualifying examination was passed, whichever is later. A candidate who fails to take the preliminary examination within four years of passing the qualifying examination must retake the qualifying examination.

An oral examination on the findings of the Ph.D. research is required at the end of the thesis work. The candidate must apply for a warrant from the Graduate School through the student services office at least three weeks before the exam.  The final oral examination must be taken within five years of passing the preliminary examination.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

1. Demonstrate an extraordinary, deep understanding of mathematical, scientific, and engineering principles in the field

2. Demonstrate an ability to formulate, analyze, and independently solve advanced engineering problems

3. Apply the relevant scientific and technological advancements, techniques, and engineering tools to address these problems

4. Recognize and apply principles of ethical and professional conduct

5. Demonstrate an ability to synthesize knowledge from a subset of the biological, physical, and/or social sciences to help frame problems critical to the future of their discipline

6. Demonstrate an ability to conduct original research and communicate it to their peers

Faculty: Professors T. Allen, Blanchard, Bonazza, Crone, Fonck, Hegna, Henderson (chair), Lakes, Smith, Sovinec, Waleffe, Wilson; Associate Professors M. Allen, Schmitz, Witt; Assistant Professors Couet, Notbohm, Scarlat, Thevamaran; Affiliate Professors Bednarz, Bier, Graham, Ludois, Ma, Miller, Morgan, Nellis, Pfotenhauer, Porter, Prabhakar, Robertson, Szlufarska, Thomadsen, Trujillo, Vanderby; Emeritus Professors Abdel-Khalik, Bisognano, Callen, Carbon, Conrad, Cook, Corradini, DeLuca, Drugan, Emmert, Hershkowitz, Kammer, Kulcinski, Mackie, Malkus, Moses, Plesha, Sandor, Schlack, Vogelsang