Flexible Nuclear Science and Engineering (22-ENG) degree approved
New major trims existing requirements, allows students to choose focus area
Students can now receive a degree in Bachelor of Science in Engineering as Recommended by the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (Course 22-ENG). The degree was approved in the faculty meeting April 17. The course provides instruction in the fundamentals of nuclear science and engineering while allowing for increased flexibility in course selection.
The core classes of 22-ENG are the same as those that comprise the Nuclear Science and Engineering (Course 22) major. Additionally, students in 22-ENG will either select a pre-approved set of classes in a focus area, such as nuclear medicine, energy or nuclear policy, or fusion energy or plasma science; or propose a focus area to the department for approval, according to the degree proposal. In total, the major requires 189 units of coursework, of which 72 units are in the focus area.
As with Course 22, students will select their advisor from the department’s five Undergraduate Officers, said Michael Short, undergraduate chair of the department, in an interview with The Tech. Short explained that the undergraduate officers work in many interdisciplinary fields and so would be able to advise interdisciplinary students well.
According to the proposal, the new major was formed to cater to students “interested in careers outside of traditional nuclear industry jobs, including nuclear medicine, clean energy technologies, fusion, quantum engineering, and modeling/simulation.”
The proposal also notes that many students who work in the department’s labs have not declared Course 22 because the major does not provide enough flexibility; the new major hopes to alleviate this issue. Additionally, the major hopes to capture students who may have an interest in the department, but leave for Course 2 or 6 for better employment opportunities, according to Short.
Short said that the major has been in development for about a year, and has been through review by the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement, Committee on Curriculum, the Academic Council, and two faculty meetings. Short said that input helped create ideas for focus areas. For example, Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of MIT’s School of Engineering, suggested a focus area on computing. However, Short said, the “original vision” of the major remained unchanged.
Short explained that the new major removes quantum physics, waves and vibrations, and analog electronics from the required Course 22 classes. Additionally, instead of taking both fission reactor engineering and fusion reactor engineering, students choose one. Similarly, students choose to do either the senior capstone or senior thesis. The removal of these five classes creates room for students to select electives outside of the department.
Short said that these classes were removed because they were the “dangling ends of the curriculum — advanced classes that were not required for any further class in the major.” Classes like thermal-fluids engineering and differential equations, which Short believes are fundamental to understanding nuclear science and engineering, will remain.
Short said that although the removal of “some classes will [cause students to] miss out on skills,” students would still have the option of selecting these courses, and these courses are not pertinent to all students. For example, Short said that quantum physics and waves and vibrations would not be relevant to students interested in nuclear policy, since “waves and vibrations and quantum physics are not what convince congressmen and the general public.”
Although no new classes have been added explicitly because of the major, Short said that the department is already continuously adding new ones, such as fusion energy.
Short hopes that 20–30 students will declare Course 22-ENG each year, compared to the current 10–20 per year that declare Course 22, said Short. Slight enrollment increases are expected for Course 22 classes, according to the proposal.
Short expects that many students will declare Course 22-ENG instead of Course 22, causing the number of students in Course 22 to decline. Short also expects that many students will double major in Courses 2-A, 8-flex, 3A, and 6.
Short stated that feedback from other departments has been unanimously positive and students have also been excited.