Virginia Tech announced Oct. 31 a new nuclear engineering minor will be available to students graduating in 2020 or later. The minor is part of the mechanical engineering department and is 18 credit hours. Students are required to take four required courses and two electives.
According to Mark Pierson, associate professor of practice in mechanical engineering and coordinator of the nuclear engineering minor, Virginia Tech had been thinking about adding this minor for quite some time.
“We've been thinking about it for a while, but we've sort of postponed it while we worked on trying to emphasize our graduate program in nuclear engineering,” Pierson said. “We do offer a master's and Ph.D. in nuclear engineering within the mechanical engineering department.”
Additionally, Pierson said the department is looking to recruit undergraduate students in the minor to apply for their nuclear engineering graduate program. The minor is also available to all undergraduate students, not just engineering majors.
If participants decide not to pursue a graduate program in nuclear engineering, Pierson says their completion of the new minor would make them much more attractive to potential employers.
“It would allow them to go into any nuclear engineering-related kind of job,” Pierson said. “If their major is mechanical engineering or electrical engineering or material science, they’d be hired, you know, under that category. If they have a minor in nuclear engineering, that’d be very attractive to a utility company that has nuclear power plants, such as Dominion Energy or Duke Energy or Southern Company.”
Only seven minors are available in the College of Engineering, but with the establishment of the nuclear engineering minor, additional students are likely to enroll because of course overlap between engineering minors.
“A couple of our nuclear engineering classes count toward the green engineering minor, so we get a lot of people already in the green engineering minor in our classes,” Pierson said. “Then, the material science and engineering department –– they have a nuclear concentration which is only open to their department, and they have to take our nuclear classes as well. So, a lot of these people are excited that they can shift over.”
Pierson said initial interest is high and one student enrolled in the minor in August although the program was not officially announced. The minor application period opened Dec. 9 for fall 2019, and Pierson said the department is expecting a lot of students to enroll.