Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT


In high school, I was always really
interested in energy and physics. And once I learned about how we can
use nuclear reactions to create almost limitless energy, I knew I wanted
to become a nuclear engineer. So 22.033 was a class in
which teams of students would decide and create their own product that related
to nuclear science and engineering. That’s basically a very intense a semester
long course where you get in groups and you try to identify
a problem in society, um, or in technology that can be improved
upon or solved using nuclear technology. The purpose of this class is sort of to
teach the design process in engineering and scientific design using a lot of
the principles that we have learned over the past few years in like
a more concentrated setting. So the way the design course works is
we get the students creative juices flowing with a mini project. The course started off with a very
startup feel. It was, you know, that build fast, like, break things. And so it sounded kind of easy
at first and it very quickly, you know, kind of demonstrated to us why classes
like this are important because there is a lot that goes into it. After that we have the students split up
into groups of three or four, identify a societal need that can be solved
with nuclear physics or engineering, come up with a holistic design approach
and then actually implement their physical solution. Whether this is a
simulation of something, a product, an improvement to a reactor,
a new plasma diagnostic, or in the case of this
year’s winning design course, a cosmic ray neutron based soil
water meter called new neutral. I think my favorite part of the course
was the sort of collaborative aspect of it. As the project moved on and we discovered
like different areas that needed work, uh, we were really able to sort of
partition what was getting done to play to everybody’s strengths. We have someone who’s
good at thermodynamics, we have someone who’s good at materials,
we have someone who knows space stuff. During the final presentations, we were judged for different
aspects of our product. How viable like our product was technically,
the issues that we faced and resolved, and also touching a little bit on the
economics and the business side of things. Most of what I learned was not what I
was expecting to learn from this class. We really had to look at things from
more aspects than we had ever done before and are like four years of undergrad from
like the business side and also the technical side and how those two things
meet together and how you need to look at both of them for like a viable product. There’s a lot of preconceptions about
what is nuclear science and engineering and it’s a lot broader than
most people would think. Nuclear to me is the ultimate integrated
engineering discipline because you have to take aspects of physics,
chemistry, mechanical engineering, thermodynamics, ethics,
social science, policy, and lump them all together in order to
create working solutions. The degree that you get from nuclear
science and engineering is not just a one that you know, tells you how to run a nuclear reactor
or calculate criticality of some lump of uranium. It actually sets you up quite a
bit with the amount of options that are available to you to pursue through classes
and research and the graduate level work that undergraduates are able to do. And especially with the field
being so varied as it is now, there’s so much going on in
nuclear medicine, so much in energy, so much in detectors for,
you know, safety for a million other things that
there’s just a lot that I can do with the knowledge that I have.

2 thoughts on “Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT

  1. Class of '23 here. Not sure yet, but right now Course 22 is my main prospect for a major. Sounds absolutely fascinating.

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