Graduate Distance Learning Program in Nuclear and Radiation Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin
The distance learning program in graduate teaching and research has existed since 1999 in the Nuclear and Radiation Engineering (NRE) Program within the Mechanical Engineering Department. It has served many graduate students in the national laboratories, industry and the Department of Defense who have sought advanced degrees while maintaining full time employment. The demographics of these students cover a wide range of ages from recent graduates to those well along in their careers. The NRE distance learning program has matured into well-disciplined entity with consistent, frequent student advising by faculty and comprehensive coverage of all NRE courses except two laboratory classes. Distance learning students who have graduated or are currently in the program are from Southwest Research Institute, South Texas Project Nuclear Generating Station (Texas), Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL), Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (LANL), DoD (Army and Air Force), PANTEX, Sterigenics and Texas Department of Health Services Radiation Control Program.
Students apply directly to the program via the usual application process (www.me.utexas.edu/graduate/orientation.php ). A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (although the typical incoming graduate student has higher GPA scores of 3.5 or better) is required along with very good Graduate Record Exams (GRE) scores. Typically, the applicant is considered on the basis of a combination of GPA, GRE, work experience, letters of reference, and a written statement of personal interest in the NRE Program. Students who have GPAs less than 3.0 or poor GRE scores are discouraged from applying. Since all the students are self-supporting they can apply off cycle and start in any semester.
Graduate courses that are covered include Nuclear Environmental Protection, Reactor Theory, Computational Methods in Radiation Transport, Nuclear Safety and Security, Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Nuclear and Radiochemistry, Mathematical Methods for Nuclear and Radiation Engineers, Nuclear Power Engineering, Neutron Interactions and their Applications in Nuclear Science and Engineering and Modern Trends in Nuclear and Radiation Engineering. As well there is a course in Independent Study. A comprehensive description of these courses is given in http://www.nuclear.engr.utexas.edu/current-students/courses. An undergraduate senior level course in Nuclear Power Systems is also offered for students with minimal nuclear engineering background and this course counts towards the MS degree. There is a two week intensive course given on campus called Radiation and Radiation Protection Laboratory which is not mandatory for the MS degree but recommended for the PhD degree for those students who have never taken a course in nuclear instrumentation.
The Nuclear and Radiation Engineering program at The University of Texas at Austin has extensive experience delivering educational content to distance learning students. Courses are also taught throughout the year in collaboration with the University Engineering Alliance. The University of Texas at Austin even offers distance-learning laboratory modules to conduct live reactor experiments.. All the courses, including some laboratory modules, are digitally captured with Mediasite hardware and software. This software allows for simultaneous capture of the classroom computer display along with video and audio from the classroom. An example of such an output is seen on this web page. A Smartboard whiteboard is utilized so instructors may write on the lecture slides and have the writing recorded in the digital video. To utilize the nuclear reactor for distance learning laboratories, in-house software has been developed providing a real-time remote display of the reactor conditions. Users may connect to this display via remote desktop, or a laboratory may be recorded with the Mediasite software. The software allows for recording of time-series data for numerous reactor parameters.