Nuclear Science & Engineering

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77 Massachusetts Ave. • 24-105 • Cambridge, MA 02139 • (617) 253-7522

MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering focuses on the applications and consequences of nuclear reactions and radiation and works to make nuclear power the safest, most economical, and most environmentally benign source of energy. Our researchers develop nuclear fission and fusion reactors for electricity generation, waste management and space propulsion, and they contribute to homeland security by exploring ways to monitor nuclear materials and detect nuclear threats. The department’s work informs public debate on the wise, humane uses of nuclear science and technology. The department collaborates with industry, the federal government, national laboratories, and partner countries including Japan, France, Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia in research in three broad categories:

Fission Engineering and Nuclear Energy

The conceptualization, development, and deployment of next-generation nuclear power systems; support of existing nuclear power plants through research on equipment aging, safety improvement, human reliability, probabilistic safety assessments, and enhanced economic performance through higher-power density cores. The six-megawatt MIT reactor is used in education and research.

Fusion and Plasma Physics

Analytical, numerical, and experimental investigation in areas including superconductivity and superconducting magnets, plasma turbulence, advanced materials, system design and optimization, and high-power millimeter wave generation. MIT’s Tokamak fusion facility is used by researchers worldwide to study magnetic confinement of plasmas.

Non-energy Applications of Nuclear Science and Technology

Macroscopic radiation biology, NMR microscopy, isotope imaging, molecular contrast agents for MR imaging, the selective delivery of radiation to cells, the unique properties of nano-scale structures, controlled spin manipulations, and the development of new compact accelerator and detector technologies for nuclear materials modeling and control.


Graduate students in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering gain a broad education that prepares them for careers in industry, research, and academia. Our programs attract science and engineering students with undergraduate degrees in areas including physics, chemistry, mathematics, materials science, and chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering. Degree options include:

Master of Science in Nuclear Science and Engineering

This program provides core knowledge in nuclear science and engineering and a foundation for work in the nuclear field and advanced graduate study. Most students specialize in one of three fields: fission nuclear technology, applied plasma physics, or nuclear science and technology. Students with adequate undergraduate preparation generally complete the degree requirements in 18 months to two years.

Nuclear Engineer

This two-year program provides students with deeper knowledge in nuclear science and engineering than is provided in the master’s program and trains them for careers in engineering application and design. Each student plans an individual program of study and must complete and orally defend a substantial research project of significant value. The program emphasizes professional application and is less research-oriented than the doctoral program.

Doctoral Degree

Students build comprehensive knowledge in nuclear science and engineering, develop competence in advanced engineering research, and gain the broad perspective to assess the role of nuclear science and technology in our society. Candidates must complete an approved program of advanced study and a sophisticated research project in nuclear science or in a nuclear-related field in another department.

Students acquire a strong foundation in science-based engineering and develop the skills and knowledge for careers in the energy industries, entrepreneurship, law, medicine, and business, and for graduate research and education. Degree options include:

Bachelor of Science

Students develop practical skills through hands-on learning, including laboratory courses on radiation physics, measurement techniques, and exercises in electronics, imaging, computational, and nuclear systems. Students must complete an undergraduate thesis in any area of nuclear science and engineering. The program also prepares them for medical school entrance exams.

Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science

The five-year combined degree is designed for students who decide relatively early in their undergraduate career that they wish to pursue a graduate degree in nuclear science and engineering. In most instances, a single thesis will satisfy the requirements for both degrees. Students apply for this program during the second term of their junior year.