NSE - Nuclear Science & Engineering at MIT


GRADUATE : Master of Science Degree Requirements

The object of the Master’s degree program is to give the student as thorough a knowledge of some phase of nuclear engineering as can be obtained in a minimum of one academic year of full-time study. The Master’s program may serve either as the first part of the student’s work for a more advanced degree or as training for professional employment in nuclear engineering.

General Institute requirements for the Master of Science degree are given in Part 2 of the General Catalogue (Bulletin) and in the ODGE (Office of the Dean for Graduate Education) Graduate Policies and Procedures Manual. Candidates for the degree of Master of Science in Nuclear Science and Engineering are required to complete an acceptable thesis and at least 66 credit units in subjects more advanced than the required undergraduate preparation for nuclear engineering. Of these units at least 48 must be subjects in nuclear science and engineering, other than special problems. Undergraduate subjects may not be used to satisfy the 66 credit unit requirement, nor may 8.04 or 18.075, nor may graduate subjects taken at other institutions. Remedial courses taken to satisfy the English Requirement may not be used to satisfy the 66 credit unit requirement. No more than 12 units of special problems (22.901 – 22.904) may be counted toward the degree requirement.  A student must have a cumulative rating of at least 3.5 exclusive of thesis to qualify for the Master’s degree, and the average of course work plus thesis must also be at least 3.5. (5.0 is an A average for MIT’s GPA scale.)

Diagnostic Tests in Physics and Math

All incoming students in the graduate programs of NSE (doctoral, masters, engineering, and the five-year) are required to take diagnostic exams in both math and physics. A new approach to conducting these exams was adopted by the NSE graduate committee as of fall 2010. The new procedure places more emphasis in the diagnostics on areas needed for NSE graduate study, and more of the responsibility to identify the need for remedial actions on the students.

During the summer prior to entrance as a graduate student, final exams (or a compilation of relevant questions) from five MIT UG subjects — 22.02 (mid-term and final); 22.05; 22.06; 22.070; and 22.071 — will be sent electronically to each incoming graduate student.

The student should then review these exams and determine whether her/his preparation is sufficient to solve the exams from the first two subjects (22.02 and 22.05), and two of the last three subjects (22.06, 22.070, and 22.071).

When the student meets with her/his registration officer on the fall term registration day, she/he should identify any weaknesses to their registration officer, and also any self-study effort undertaken over the summer, to determine the need for remedial study.No specific grade is required for the remedial subjects.However, these grades will become part of your GPA, for which there is already an existing guideline as to what is deemed acceptable for any graduate student (GPA no less than 3.5 (based on 5.0 scale)).

Recommended Subjects for the S.M. Degree

Students should plan programs of study with their Registration Officers, keeping in mind prior educational background and principal professional interests.

Since September 2013, subjects 22.11 and 22.12 are required for all Master’s degree candidates. Other subjects may be selected in accordance with the student’s particular field of interest. Most Master’s candidates specialize in one of four alternative fields:  fission nuclear technology, applied plasma physics, nuclear security, or nuclear science and technology.

For students specializing in fission nuclear technology, additional subjects recommended are: 

22.211 Nuclear Reactor Physics I
22.312 Engineering of Nuclear Reactors
22.38 Probability and Its Applications to Reliability, Quality Control, and Risk Assessment
Modern Physical Metallurgy or
Radiation Damage and Effects in Nuclear Materials

For students specializing in applied plasma physics or fusion technology, additional recommended subjects include:

22.611J Introduction to Plasma Physics I
22.615 MHD Theory of Fusion Systems
22.62 Fusion Energy
22.63 Engineering Principles for Fusion Reactors
22.67 Principles of Plasma Diagnostics

For students specializing in nuclear security additional recommended subjects include::

22.16  or
Nuclear Technology and Society or
Social Problems of Nuclear Energy
22.251 Systems Analysis of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle
22.78 Principles of Nuclear Chemical Engineering and Waste Management
22.812J Managing Nuclear Technology
22.814 Nuclear Non-Proliferation
22.90 Nuclear Science and Engineering Laboratory

For students specializing in nuclear science and technology, additional recommended subjects include:

22.51 Quantum Theory of Radiation Interactions
22.55J Radiation Biophysics
22.56J Noninvasive Imaging in Biology and Medicine
22.90 Nuclear Science and Engineering Laboratory

Students with full undergraduate preparation normally need 12-18 months to obtain the Master of Science degree.  Under ordinary circumstances students are expected to take a full load of 45 units (including thesis units) per regular term (a regular term is any Fall or Spring term).

Master's Thesis Research

General information relating to advanced degrees is to be found in the Graduate Policies and Procedures Manual (available at http://web.mit.edu/gso/gpp/index.html). Research may be undertaken in nuclear engineering or in a related field. A thesis supervisor may be selected from one of three categories (which can be found at the end of this document). Either the thesis supervisor or reader must be a member of the faculty of the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department. A thesis can be primarily theoretical or experimental, or can combine both approaches.

A Master’s thesis is normally completed within 12 – 18 months. Students should use this as a guide in planning their research schedule. No student will be allowed to register for more than three semesters of Master’s thesis work without petitioning for and receiving the express consent of the Departmental Committee on Graduate Students. Once initiated, a Master’s thesis must be completed before a student may start doctoral research.

Careful initial planning is essential for successful completion of a research project. Each thesis student is required, therefore, to turn in one copy of a brief thesis prospectus to the Department Academic Office by the end of the eighth week of the first term of Master’s thesis registration. Thesis registration may be cancelled if this requirement is not satisfied.

The prospectus should be a clear and well-organized preliminary report. It should contain (1) an introduction to the subject, giving a brief general statement of the field of interest and a concrete statement of the limited area of work which it is intended to undertake; (2) a review of relevant background information; (3) the proposed method of solution; (4) a tentative time schedule for completion of the work; (5) the name of the faculty member who will act as thesis advisor, and reader to be selected by the student with the concurrence of the advisor; (6) signatures of thesis advisor and reader to indicate approval of the proposed research project. Either the thesis advisor or the reader must be a member of the faculty of the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department.

It is the responsibility of the student to maintain a rate of progress that will insure completion of the thesis within the three semesters allowed. The student, thesis supervisor, and reader must have a formal meeting once per academic year. An attendance sheet must be signed by supervisor, reader and student at the end of the meeting, and it is the responsibility of the student to submit the attendance sheet to the NSE Academic Office. The thesis supervisor may require periodic, written reports on the progress of the thesis. Students should be prepared to submit these if requested.

Special regulations and directions on graduate theses are to be found in the Graduate Policies and Procedure Manual. Each graduate student preparing a thesis is responsible for compliance with Institute and Department instructions regarding thesis preparation. See (http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/thesis-specs/). Two copies of the thesis in final printed form and one electronic copy, in PDF form, on CD are to be submitted to the Department Academic Office. Original signatures of the thesis supervisor and reader must appear on the thesis cover page. In addition, a copy should be furnished the thesis advisor, the reader if requested, and to satisfy any other obligations incurred (e.g., sometimes copies are required for non-government fellowship sponsors.)

A student admitted for a SM degree must apply to the NSE Department Admissions Committee for admission to the doctoral degree program, should the student become interested in a doctoral degree. Note that all pre-qualifying exam requirements for the doctoral degree program must be met before taking the qualifying exam, and the student must have a minimum 4.0 GPA (based on the 5.0 scale).

Department Regulations for SM Thesis Supervision

The following was adopted by the NSE Graduate Committee.

A thesis supervisor may be selected from one of the following three categories:

  1. NSE FACULTY (NSE faculty; NSE faculty emeritus; NSE professor of the practice; faculty having dual and joint appointment with other departments).
  2. Non-NSE MIT Faculty and NSE (and affiliated labs — PSFC and MITR) Senior and Principal Research Scientists/Engineers. A selection from category (2) requires an NSE faculty member as a thesis reader.
  3. Visiting Professors, NSE (and affiliated labs — PSFC and MITR) Research Scientists/Engineers, and MIT Senior and Principal Scientists/Engineers (including MIT-Harvard programs). A selection from category (3) requires an NSE faculty member as a thesis reader.


Revised August 2015

Department of Nuclear Science & Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue, 24-107
Cambridge, MA 02139