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Materials Science & Engineering Materials Science and Engineering Program

This certificate program will benefit students who wish to pursue employment opportunities in the multifaceted nuclear industry. The northwest United States has long been a hub of research and industrial activity in nuclear science. This includes the Tri-Cities region, which is a center for nuclear industry employment and the site of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the Columbia Generating Station (currently the only operating commercial plant in the northwest), the largest nuclear waste treatment project in the nation, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL – a multiprogram laboratory of the Department of Energy).PNNL has recently expanded its infrastructure capabilities in nuclear materials and is actively developing nuclear materials characterization capabilities at its Radiochemical Processing Lab. The Tri-Cities also hosts several business in nuclear fuels (Areva) and nuclear medical isotopes (IsoRay).  Not to be ignored is the significant nuclear reactor design expertise found at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), in Idaho Falls. At the same time, WSU has significantly grown training and research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students enabled by Department of Energy investments in WSU’s Nuclear Radiation Center, one of a few university research reactors in the nation, and major growth of the Radiochemistry research emphasis within the Department of Chemistry.

The Graduate Certificate in Nuclear Materials provides formal academic coursework to scientists and engineers whose primary training is in a non-nuclear discipline; statistics show that only a small portion of scientists and engineers employed in the nuclear industry, ~5%, have a nuclear degree.  Thus this certification program addresses the needs and expectations of the current industry.

Program Requirements

Graduate certificate programs are designed for part-time study without formal admission to a degree program. Part-time students admitted to a certificate program will be classified as “Not-Advanced-Degree-Candidate” (NADC), meaning a student with a baccalaureate degree who wishes to take graduate courses but does not wish to pursue a graduate degree. This classification is defined in more detail in the Graduate School Policies & Procedures. Students currently enrolled in regular graduate degree programs at WSU (master’s or doctoral) may concurrently enroll in graduate certificate programs with the approval of their committee. To qualify as a part-time certificate student, a prospective student must:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited post-secondary institution.
  • Meet all prerequisite course requirements or be able to demonstrate equivalent knowledge and understanding for courses prior to enrollment.
  • Complete the on-line Graduate School application form prior to enrollment in their first course (indicating their interest in a certificate program), pay the appropriate application fee, and submit the required application material of our School.
  • Maintain the requirements to be a student in good standing in the Graduate School and MSEP program while enrolled as a certificate student.

The maximum time allowed for completion of a certificate is 6 years from the beginning date of the earliest course applied toward the certificate. Extensions may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Statement of Resources

The Graduate Certificate Program in Nuclear Materials draws upon the existing resources of the Materials Science and Engineering Program (MSEP) and also includes the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Chemistry Department.

We expect this program to be desirable to traditional students in addition to those who are working professionals in the region’s nuclear industries.  Course offerings from the graduate certificate program will be made available on the AMS system and/or on streaming video when possible.  Courses may be offered late in the day or evening to accommodate working professionals.

Description of Curriculum

These course offerings will address the following key components:

  • Fundamental nuclear science and engineering
  • Radiochemistry
  • Reactor operation and engineering
  • Safety
  • Waste management

To obtain the certificate, students must complete a minimum of nine credits from the following list of courses, six credits of which of which must be at the graduate level. No S/F courses will be used or counted for the certificate; a grade B or higher is required in each course counting towards the certificate.

To receive the certificate, students must submit an Application for Graduation for Graduate Certificate with the appropriate signatures, pay a fee, and submit it to the Graduate School when the certificate coursework has been completed.

  • ME 461 Introduction to Nuclear Engineering (3 credits).  A broad introduction: applied nuclear physics, application to the nuclear fuel cycle and reactor core design, systems and safety.
  • ME 565 Nuclear Reactor Engineering (3 credits). Nuclear reactor design problems in thermodynamics, fluid flow, heat transfer, fuel preparation, waste disposal, materials selection; discussion of reactor types. Nuclear power plant licensing and related topics will also be introduced and discussed.
  • ME 579 Special Topics in Mechanical Engineering: Topics in Nuclear Engineering (3 credits).  Topics include:  nuclear materials, nuclear fuel cycle, technology of fusion energy, and nuclear safeguards and security.
  • MSE 503 Current Topics in Materials Science and Engineering: Glass Science and Technology (3 credits). A broad overview of the current state of knowledge in Glass Science & Technology. From windows to drinking glasses, from optical fiber to cell phone and computer displays and nuclear waste immobilization, glass is ubiquitous in our lives and has changed human history multiple times.
  • Chem 490 Reactor Operator Training (1-3 credits). The essential subject matter needed to take the nuclear Reactor Operator licensing examination, which is administered by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Materials includes basic reactor physics, nuclear reactions, health physics and radiation safety, nuclear fuel behavior, nuclear reactor control systems, plant operations and regulatory compliance.  The intended outcome is for the candidate to take the U.S. NRC examination to become a licensed Nuclear Plant Reactor Operator for the WSU research reactor.
  • Chem 521/522 Radiochemistry and Radiotracers (2 credits with 1 credit lab). The courses provide understanding on basic radiochemistry and nuclear chemistry, including, but not limited to, concepts on nuclear stability, decay modes and kinetics, interactions of radiation with matter, radioanalytical instrumentation, health physics, radiolysis, neutron activation, and chemistry at tracer levels.
  • Chem 529 Selected Topics in Analytical Chemistry: Solution Chemistry for Nuclear Processes (3 credits).A high level overview of the essential features of reactions occurring in condensed liquid phases, emphasizing aqueous and organic media, and  biphasic liquid-liquid extraction systems.
  • Chem 550 Special Topics in Nuclear Processes and Radioactive Waste Management (1-3 credits) May be repeated for credit. Prereq permission of instructor. Fundamental chemistry of the nuclear industry, chemical processing and waste management.

Apply Now

Contact person:

Professor Nathalie Wall
Department of Chemistry
Washington State University
Ph. (509)-335-8917
Email. nawall@wsu.edu