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Materials Science and Engineering Materials Science and Engineering Program

Nuclear Materials, Science, & Engineering Graduate Certificate

1.       Statement of Need

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. Additionally, the new WSU-PNNL Joint Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (INST) demonstrates the commitment of WSU to nuclear research and education.

The Tri-Cities also hosts several businesses in nuclear fuels (Framatome) 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 Science 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, Science, & Engineering 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.

2.       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, pay the appropriate application fee, and submit the required application material.
  • Maintain the requirements to be a student in good standing in the Graduate School and Materials Science & Engineering Program (MSEP) 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.

3.       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 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/ CHE 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 462 Introduction to Nuclear Engineering II (3 credits) Fundamentals of nuclear engineering, heat deposition and removal from nuclear reactors, radiation protection, radiation shielding, and licensing, safety, and environmental aspects of nuclear reactor operation.
  • 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 Advanced Topics in Mechanical Engineering (typically 3 credits). Topics offered related to nuclear engineering.
  • MSE 503 Advanced Topics in Materials Engineering (typically 3 credits). Topics offered related to nuclear materials, science, and engineering. E.g. Glass Science and Technology.
  • Chem 490 Current Topics in Chemistry (typically 3 credits). Topics related to nuclear chemistry and materials. E.g. Reactor Operator Training. 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 (typically 3 credits) Topics related to nuclear chemistry and materials. E.g. Solution Chemistry for Nuclear Materials
  • Chem 550 Special Topics in Nuclear Processes and Radioactive Waste Management (1-3 credits) E.g., Fundamental chemistry of the nuclear industry, chemical processing and waste management.
  • Other suitable courses with substantial focus on Nuclear Materials, Science, and Engineering may be allowed at the discretion of the certificate point of contact.

Apply Now

Contact person:
John McCloy
Pullman, WA
  • Thank you for your interest in the Nuclear Engineering certificate at Washington State University.
  • In order to enter the certificate program, it is necessary to apply to the graduate school (
  • Under program selection, choose Materials Science and Engineering Ph.D., and then the subheading Nuclear Engineering Certificate.
  • Once you are in the program, you have six years to complete 9 credits of graded coursework (B or higher), six of which must be at the graduate level.