Qualifying Examination

The Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) Qualifying Examination is offered twice a year in August and January on the Friday prior to the first day of instruction for the fall and spring semesters. The exam is administered by the NPRE Qualifying Exam Committee, which is made up of three faculty appointed from the general NPRE faculty body on a rotating basis. A letter is delivered outlining steps to register for the NPRE qualifying examination 2-3 weeks prior to the end of the semester for the corresponding NPRE Qual Exam.

1. Scheduling Timeframe

Scheduling Timeframe: It is important for both the Department and the student that an early decision is made on admission to the doctoral program. The timeframe below allows the student the opportunity to take coursework to adequately prepare for the exam, while sitting for it as early as possible.

  1. Students entering with a BS in Nuclear Engineering will take the exam no later than just after three (3) semesters or no later than the beginning of the fourth semester in residence, i.e. a student entering in Fall 2014 with a BS in Nuclear Engineering will sit for the exam no later than January 2016.
  2. Students entering with a BS in a non-nuclear field of study will take the exam no later than just after four (4) semesters or no later than the beginning of the fifth semester in residence, i.e. a student entering in Fall 2014 with a BS in a non-nuclear field of study will sit for the exam no later than August 2016.
  3. Students entering with an MS degree in Nuclear Engineering will take the exam no later than just after two (2) semesters or no later than the beginning of the third semester in residence, i.e. a student entering in Fall 2014 with an MS in Nuclear Engineering will sit for the exam no later than August 2015.
  4. Students entering with an MS degree in a non-nuclear field of study will take the exam no later than just after three (3) semesters or no later than the beginning of the fourth semester in residence, i.e. a student entering in Fall 2014 with an MS in a non-nuclear field of study will sit for the exam no later than January 2016.

Early attempts: Students may elect to take the exam earlier than normally scheduled in cases where they are sufficiently prepared. Students are encouraged to discuss their specific situation with their faculty adviser.

Failure to sit for the exam per schedule: A failing grade will be recorded if the exam is not taken by a student in accordance with the scheduled first take. Exemption from the schedule may be requested by petition on the basis of reasonable grounds, such as situations beyond the student’s control, and require approval of the student’s adviser before being submitted to the Qualifying Examination Committee.

2. Format

Written examination: 10am-noon (Questions 1 and 2), 1:30pm-3:30pm (Question 3) the Friday before the start of both the Spring and Fall semesters. Location will be announced two weeks prior to scheduled written exam.

Question 1: Heat and mass transfer (NPRE 501 material)
Question 2: Radiation interactions with matter (NPRE 521 material)
Question 3: Research technical area (see Table 1)

Research Oral examination: Scheduled beginning the second week of classes in the corresponding semester after the written examination, pending availability of NPRE faculty. A technical paper is assessed by the student during a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation to the oral exam committee. The paper is handed out after the last written exam question is submitted the day of the written exam.

The technical paper is selected by the QE committee on a specific topic related to the research interest of the student. This topic must be the same as that chosen for Question 3 above. The oral student presentation has two components: 1) an assessment of the paper, and 2) an extension of this foundation. The student is given latitude to perform this extension with the goal of demonstrating original thought and development related to the research topic. Note preliminary research results from the student are not expected nor encouraged. A sample rubric for the assessment, extension and overall performance of the research oral examination is provided to the student after registration for the NPRE qualifying examination and selection of the specific research technical area as defined in Table 1. The research oral exam is graded either as a Pass or Fail and independent of the written-exam component.

Make-up Oral examination: The student will be given the opportunity to reconcile a grade of Fail or Marginal Fail on one (1) question from the written examination. This will constitute the second component of the oral examination and will be taken immediately after the research oral exam. Student failing two (2) or three (3) questions will NOT be given a make-up oral examination.

3. Outcomes

The following summary titled “Outcomes” provides guidance on potential outcomes of the NPRE Qualifying Examination based on performance on each component of the same. The written-exam component and research oral exam component are both graded separately. A student must pass both components to obtain an overall pass of the Qual. For example, in the first column of the summary figure below having 2 or more written exam questions graded with MF/F will result in an overall Fail in the written examination. If the research oral exam is also a Fail, then the student must re-take both components of the NPRE QE (i.e. written exam and research oral exam) at the next QE. If the research oral exam is a Pass, then the student must only re-take the failed written exam question(s) of the NPRE QE at the next QE. If a student scores 2 questions with a pass/marginal pass score (second column), then the outcome of the written examination will be either a pass or fail depending on the outcome of the make-up oral exam as defined in the previous section. The overall outcome of the QE would have two results each corresponding to the written exam and oral research exam.

Outcomes

Number of written exam questions graded at Pass/Marginal Pass

0/1

2

3

Outcome of written examination

F

?#

P

Outcome of make-up oral

n/a

P/F

n/a

Outcome of research oral

F##

 

P

Outcome of QE

F†

P/F††

P

# Pending outcome of make-up oral examination.
## Research oral examination must be re-taken regardless of written examination outcome.
† Entire QE must be retaken
†† Retake question 1, 2, or 3 answered incorrectly written examination if deficiency not corrected during make-up oral examination; research oral examination does not need to be retaken if P graded obtained.


4. Re-testing

Re-testing of only components not passed during first attempt will be performed at the next QE. Moreover, only those written exam questions not passed during first attempt will be performed at the next QE. Likewise, students failing the Research Oral portion of the QE will be re-tested at the next QE offering. All components of the NPRE Qual Exam must be passed for PhD qualification and candidacy after taking the QE for the second time. A third opportunity to retake the QE will require a formal petition to the NPRE Qualifying Exam Committee.

Table 1. Suggested topics available for Question 3 of the written examination and the research oral examination

Technical Area

Suggested Courses

Reactor Physics (thermal hydraulics and neutronics)

NPRE 455, 501

Materials and nuclear materials

NPRE 431, 432

Health physics, radiation detection physics, radiological

NPRE 451, 435, 441, 498-DC (new course in detector physics)

Fusion and plasma physics

NPRE 421, 423, 429

Risk and Policy

NPRE 598-PR (new course)

Table 2. Suggested textbooks to supplement preparation for written-exam Question 3.

Technical Area

Suggested Textbooks (partial list)

Reactor Physics (thermal hydraulics and neutronics)

R. L. Murray and K. E. Holbert, 7th edition Nuclear Energy, J.J. Duderstadt and L.J. Hamilton, Nuclear Reactor Analysis, J.Lamarsh, Intro to Nuclear Engineering

Materials and nuclear materials

J. Olander, Fundamental Aspects of Nuclear Fuel
G. Was, Fundamentals of Radiation Materials Science

Health physics, radiation detection physics, radiological

Bevington, Cember, Introduction to Health Physics, Knoll Radiation Detection and Measurement, ZH Cho, Foundation of Medical Imaging

Fusion and plasma physics

J. Freidberg, Plasma Physics and Fusion Energy, M. Lieberman and A.J. Lichtenberg, Principles of Plasma Discharges and Materials Processing

Risk and Policy

P. Bickel and K. Doksum, Mathematical Statistics: Basic Ideas and Selected Topics

Table 3. Suggested topics (partial list) to guide preparation for written-exam Question 3.

Technical Area

Suggested Topics

Reactor Physics (thermal hydraulics and neutronics)

Fission processes, reactor technology, reactor theory, time-dependent behavior, radioactive decay, heat transport

Materials and nuclear materials

Fundamental aspects of radiation damage, kinetic processes, diffusion and transport phenomena, defect creation and mobility

Health physics, radiation detection physics, radiological

Detector physics, counting statistics and data analysis medical imaging, health physics, Interaction of ionizing radiation with matter

Fusion and plasma physics

Fusion and plasma physics, plasma engineering, plasma particles and waves, fusion energy, plasma sources, plasma-material interactions

Risk and Policy

Fundamentals of Probability and Statistics for Risk analysis, Systematic Risk Scenario Modeling, Risk management

Revised 12/12/2014