The radiation sciences option of the nuclear engineering major provides a pathway for careers in medical applications of radiation. Understanding how radiation interacts with biological material is a natural extension of the nuclear engineering fundamentals in modern physics and mathematics. Many students continue to graduate school to get advanced degrees in medical physics, either at UW-Madison or elsewhere.

Radiation science students will use their engineering analysis skills on challenges that range from working with patients to developing new medical devices and equipment. Patients experience radiation to diagnose diseases as well as to treat them. In both cases it may rely on radioactive tracers injected into their bodies or on radiation exposure from outside. Deciding how to administer the radiation to maximize the benefit and minimize the harm requires skills at the intersection between medicine and nuclear engineering. Nuclear engineers in the radiation sciences option also design, analyze and build devices that will generate novel radioactive tracers, deliver radiation externally in ever more precise ways, and detect the radiation levels to ensure the accuracy of the treatments.

Following the same deep curriculum in physics and math in the early years, students in the radiation sciences option will complete their degree with graduate courses from the internationally recognized Medical Physics program. After learning the consequences of radiation interaction with both healthy and diseased tissue, students can take courses in imaging and radiation detection, the production of radiation with radioisotopes or engineered devices, and dig deeper into the use of radiation in medicine.

Talk to your academic advisor about declaring this option.

The Radiation Sciences option is intended for students interested in medical and non-power applications. Students must have and are expected to maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA.

The following curriculum applies to students who entered the program starting in Fall 2022. 

Summary of Requirements

Mathematics and Statistics22
Engineering Science27
Radiation Sciences Core Requirement25
Radiation Sciences Electives11
Introduction to Engineering3
Communication Skills8
Liberal Studies16
Free Elective1
Total Credits129

Mathematics and Statistics

MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 15
or MATH 217 Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
or MATH 275
MATH 222 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 24
or MATH 276
MATH 234 Calculus--Functions of Several Variables4
MATH 320 Linear Algebra and Differential Equations3
MATH 321 Applied Mathematical Analysis3
STAT 324 Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers3
Total Credits22


Select one of the following:5-10
Advanced General Chemistry
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
PHYSICS 202 General Physics5
or PHYSICS 208 General Physics
PHYSICS 241 Introduction to Modern Physics3
or PHYSICS 205 Modern Physics for Engineers
PHYSICS 322 Electromagnetic Fields3
Total Credits16-21

Engineering Science 

E C E 376 Electrical and Electronic Circuits3
or PHYSICS 321 Electric Circuits and Electronics
E M A 201 Statics3
E M A 202 Dynamics3
or M E 240 Dynamics
E M A 303 Mechanics of Materials3
or M E 306 Mechanics of Materials
E P 271 Engineering Problem Solving I3-4
or COMP SCI 200 Programming I
or COMP SCI 220 Data Science Programming I
or COMP SCI 310 Problem Solving Using Computers
M E 231 Geometric Modeling for Design and Manufacturing3
M E 361 Thermodynamics3
M S & E 350 Introduction to Materials Science3
Computing Elective (select one of the following):3
Programming II
Introduction to Numerical Methods
Intermediate Problem Solving for Engineers
Introduction to Scientific Computing for Engineering Physics
Total Credits27-28

Radiation Sciences Core Requirement 

N E 305 Fundamentals of Nuclear Engineering3
N E 405 Nuclear Reactor Theory3
N E 408 Ionizing Radiation3
N E 412 Nuclear Reactor Design5
N E 424 Nuclear Materials Laboratory1
N E 427 Nuclear Instrumentation Laboratory2
N E 428 Nuclear Reactor Laboratory2
N E 571 Economic and Environmental Aspects of Nuclear Energy3
MED PHYS/​B M E/​H ONCOL/​PHYSICS  501 Radiation Physics and Dosimetry3
Total Credits25

Radiation Sciences Electives

Medical Physics Electives9
Select credits from Medical Physics Electives Course List below
Technical Electives (not to be confused with Medical Physics Electives) choose 2 credits from:2
Cooperative Education Program (no more than 3 credits)
Courses numbered 300+ in the CoE except for E P D/INTEREGR
Courses numbered 300+ in MATH, PHYSICS, COMP SCI, STAT (except STAT 301), ASTRON, MED PHYS, and CHEM departments
Students may also propose any class that they feel will benefit their education path with pre-requisite of two physics or calculus classes. For these courses the advisor will review the request and if approved, recommend a DARS substitution.
Total Credits11

Medical Physics Electives Course List1 

MED PHYS/​N E  506 Monte Carlo Radiation Transport3
MED PHYS/​B M E  566 Physics of Radiotherapy3
MED PHYS/​N E  569 Health Physics and Biological Effects 23-4
MED PHYS/​B M E  573 Mathematical Methods in Medical Physics3
MED PHYS/​B M E  574 Data Science in Medical Physics3
MED PHYS/​B M E  578 Non-Ionizing Diagnostic Imaging4
MED PHYS/​B M E  580 The Physics of Medical Imaging with Ionizing Radiation4
MED PHYS/​PHYSICS  588 Radiation Production and Detection4
MED PHYS 671 Selected Topics in Medical Physics 21-4
MED PHYS 701 Ethics and the responsible conduct of research and practice of Medical Physics1

Students are encouraged to access the online N E future course offering grid to plan their future course schedules and to confirm the offering of a course in the table. 


Courses meeting the Medical Physics Electives requirement are selected MED PHYS courses numbered 500 and above and selected PHYSICS courses numbered 400 or above. No more than 3 credits of N E 699 Advanced Independent Study may be used to meet this requirement. (Refer to the NE handbook under Degree Information on the NE department website).


N E/​MED PHYS  569 Health Physics and Biological Effects and MED PHYS 671 Selected Topics in Medical Physics are especially recommended for students in this focus area.

 Introduction to Engineering

N E 231 Introduction to Nuclear Engineering3
Total Credits3

Communication Skills 

ENGL 100 Introduction to College Composition3
or LSC 100 Science and Storytelling
or COM ARTS 100 Introduction to Speech Composition
or ESL 118 Academic Writing II
E P D 275 Technical Presentations2
INTEREGR 397 Engineering Communication3
Total Credits8

 Liberal Studies Electives

College of Engineering Liberal Studies Requirements
Complete Requirements 116
Total Credits16

Students must take 16 credits that carry H, S, L, or Z breadth designators. These credits must fulfill the following subrequirements:

  1. A minimum of two courses from the same subject area (the description before the course number). At least one of these two courses must be designated as above the elementary level (I, A, or D) in the course listing.
  2. A minimum of 6 credits designated as humanities (H, L, or Z in the course listing), and an additional minimum of 3 credits designated as social science (S or Z in the course listing). Foreign language courses count as H credits. Retroactive credits for language courses may not be used to meet the Liberal Studies credit requirement (they can be used for subrequirement 1 above).
  3. At least 3 credits in courses designated as ethnic studies (lower case “e” in the course listing). These courses may help satisfy subrequirements 1 and 2 above, but they only count once toward the total required. Note: Some courses may have “e” designation but not have H, S, L, or Z designation; these courses do not count toward the Liberal Studies requirement.

For information on credit load, adding or dropping courses, course substitutions, pass/fail, auditing courses, dean's honor list, repeating courses, probation, and graduation, see the College of Engineering Official Regulations.

Honors in Undergraduate Research Program

Qualified undergraduates may earn an Honor in Research designation on their transcript and diploma by completing 8 credits of undergraduate honors research, including a senior thesis. Further information is available in the department office.


First Year
CHEM 10915E M A 20133
MATH 2215MATH 2224
Communication A3M E 2313
Liberal Studies Elective3M S & E 3503
 N E 2313
 16 16
Second Year
MATH 2344MATH 3203
PHYSICS 2025PHYSICS 241 or 2053
E M A 20243M E 3613
E P 271 or COMP SCI 3103E M A 30343
E P D 275 or COM ARTS 1052N E 4241
 Liberal Studies Elective3
 17 16
Third Year
N E 3053N E 4053
MATH 3213N E 4083
STAT 32453PHYSICS 3223
Technical Elective62Computing Elective3
Liberal Studies Elective4E C E 376 or PHYSICS 3213
 Free Elective1
 15 16
Fourth Year
N E 4272N E 4125
Medical Physics Elective3N E 4282
Medical Physics Elective3Medical Physics Elective3
Liberal Studies Elective3Liberal Studies Elective3
 17 16
Total Credits 129

It is recommended that students take CHEM 109 Advanced General Chemistry for 5 credits. However, depending on their high school chemistry experience, students may substitute this with CHEM 103 General Chemistry I and CHEM 104 General Chemistry II for a total of 9 credits. Three credits of CHEM 103/CHEM 104 General Chemistry II may be counted as Technical Electives credits.


Students who were not able to take N E 231 Introduction to Nuclear Engineering as freshmen may, with the approval of their advisor, substitute a course offered in the College of Engineering or in the Departments of Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics.


Students may substitute PHYSICS 201 General Physics, 5 credits, for E M A 201 Statics, 3 credits, with the approval of their advisor.


After completing E M A 201 Statics, students may complete E M A 202 Dynamics and E M A 303 Mechanics of Materials in either order or concurrently.


STAT 311 Introduction to Theory and Methods of Mathematical Statistics I or STAT/​M E  424 Statistical Experimental Design are acceptable substitutes.


PHYSICS 623 Electronic Aids to Measurement is recommended for students in the Radiation Sciences focus area.