I am writing a paper on Nuclear engineering and I would
like to know
what type of math you do on the job and what about your job makes it
interesting. It would be very helpful.
Dear Ms. G.
This will be a low key and short answer to your question. Others may choose
to add their own thoughts to any replies they send you.
While I do not personally use "math" in daily applications to my job because
I work at a programmatic level and not the design level, the types of math
you will use in the nuclear engineering field include algebra, geometry, and
both integral and differential calculus. If you wanted to see the
applications of these different types of mathematics, you could check out
some basic text like "Introduction to Nuclear Engineering" (title?) by John
LaMarsh (black and white cover on book) or "Nuclear Engineering" by
Duderstadt and Hamilton (at Univ. of Michigan)(royal blue cover with gold
lettering) at a good sized library with a decent reference room.
Nuclear engineering includes a lot of different sub-areas of study. If you
like doing computer code work, you will probably use the "math" a lot, as
you will in the instrumentation and control (I&C) area, and the heat
transfer and fluid flow areas. Neutron transport and shielding work also
involves a lot of math. Nuclear criticality or nuclear safety work also uses
a variety of mathematical applications. If you branch off into health
physics work, which is really separate from pure nuclear engineering, you
will use a lot of physics in dealing with the effects of radiation on people
and animals (like a medical physicist will do in a treatment center or
hospital setting where medical devices are used to treat or diagnose
I cannot speak for anyone but myself in what I like about the field of
nuclear engineering. I do not currently work in the power engineering end of
the profession as I did earlier in my career, but I found it exciting to
deal with power reactors and how they use nuclear energy to act basically as
a heat source that produces steam to generate electricity. More recently in
my career I have been involved with nuclear waste disposal and the nuclear
engineering principles I studied long ago come into play in dealing with the
long term disposal issues that have to be dealt with at waste repositories.
These issues include such things as radiation effects on materials and
radiation doses associated with handling, transporting, and disposing of the
waste (that has been generated as part of the fuel cycle or the defense
weapons production program that the US had for a long time during the Cold
War). If you choose to go into the weapons area of nuclear engineering, you
will apply the principles in nuclear engineering for the release of energy,
as opposed to containing it, or in studying the effects of other countries'
weapons against the US defense system.
In my personal opinion, nuclear engineering is still a good career field to
go into. A lot of colleges and universities have scaled back their programs
due to lower program enrollments, but due to the continuing need to have a
feeder supply of people to carry on the power, waste, and medical
applications uses of nuclear energy there will be a heavy demand for people
to enter the field to replace people who have finished their careers.
Hope this helps you out a little.
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Update: June 2012