Master of Science and PhD, Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics

Due to safety concerns for all prospective students during the COVID-19 crisis, GRE scores are optional for applications to all Engineering Mechanics and all Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics graduate programs through the Fall 2022 semester. 

Program Details: Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics

A broad program of instruction and research is offered in the principles of the interaction of radiation with matter and their applications, and in several areas of engineering physics. The program has strong engineering and applied science components. It emphasizes several areas of activity, including the research, design, development, and deployment of fission reactors; fusion engineering; plasma physics; radiation damage to materials; applied superconductivity and cryogenics; and large-scale computing in engineering science.

The master’s degree may be pursued as a terminal degree in the fission area and in various engineering physics areas, but it is not generally recommended as a final degree in fusion research; students interested in fusion should plan to pursue the Ph.D. degree. About 40 percent of the current graduate students hold undergraduate degrees in nuclear engineering, about 40 percent in physics, and about 20 percent in other disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and materials science.

The department is considered to have one of the top five nuclear engineering programs in the nation over the last 40 years. It incorporates several research organizations including the Wisconsin Institute of Nuclear Systems, the Pegasus Toroidal Experiment Program, the Fusion Technology Institute, and the Center for Plasma Theory and Computation.

Research may be performed in areas including next generation fission reactor engineering; fluid and heat transfer modeling for transient analysis; reactor monitoring and diagnostics; fuel cycle analysis; magnetic and inertial confinement fusion reactor engineering, including the physics of burning plasmas, plasma-wall interactions, neutron transport, tritium breeding, radiation damage, and liquid-metal heat transfer; experimental and theoretical studies of plasmas including radio frequency heating, magnetic confinement, plasma instabilities, and plasma diagnostics; industrial plasma physics, such as plasma processing and plasma source ion implantation; superconducting magnets and cryogenics; and theoretical and experimental studies of the damage to materials in fission and fusion reactors.

The department places considerable emphasis on establishing research teams or group research, as well as traditional research activity by individual faculty members and their students. The groups frequently involve faculty, scientific staff, and graduate students from several departments, adding a strong interdisciplinary flavor to the research.

Students sometimes perform thesis work at national laboratories such as Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Would you like to learn more about the graduate programs in Engineering Physics?  For overviews of our major research areas, lab tours and more check out the EP grad recruiting page!

Degree Information

The Department of Engineering Physics (EP) reviews Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics graduate student applications for the fall, spring and summer terms of each year. The application deadlines are below. In order to be reviewed for admission, ALL application materials must be submitted online through the Graduate School’s application portal by the deadline.

Due to safety concerns for all prospective students during the COVID-19 crisis, GRE scores are optional for applications to all Engineering Mechanics and all Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics graduate programs through the Fall 2022 semester.

Application Deadlines:

December 15th

October 1st

December 15th

Graduate School Application Website

ALL application materials, including test scores and letters of recommendation, must be submitted online through the Graduate School’s application portal by the application deadline.

Admission Requirements & Materials:

  1. ALL applicants must meet the general Graduate School Admission Requirements. 
  1. Apart from current UW-Madison NE/EP/EMA undergraduate students, all MS and PhD applicants must submit GRE General Test Scores. Scores may not be more than 5 years old from the start of the admissions term for which applicants are applying. Scores need to be sent directly from Educational Testing Services (ETS) using the institution code 1846. (GRE scores are not required for current UW-Madison NE/EP/EMA undergraduate students.) 
  1. All degree-seeking students must submit an online application to the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Graduate School and pay the application fee. 
  1. Within the application:
  • All applicants must upload a copy of their transcripts from their undergraduate institution and other previous higher education institutions. Applicants must upload a transcript for each college-level institution attended. Please do not send any hard copies of transcripts unless specifically instructed to do so by the UW-Madison Graduate School.
  • All applicants must submit a statement of purpose/reasons for graduate study. UW-Madison Graduate School Guidelines for the statement of purpose are found at Note that information on research interests and aspirations is important for the application review process.
  • All applicants must submit at least three letters of recommendation, uploaded electronically through the electronic application system. 
  1. International Students:  International applicants must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Please refer to the Graduate School’s Admission Requirements page for the minimum required scores. Scores are accepted if they are within two years of the start of the admissions term for which applicants are applying. TOEFL scores should be electronically sent directly from Educational Testing Service (ETS) to institution code 1846 (no department code is needed). IELTS scores should be electronically sent directly from IELTS to UW-Madison, Graduate Studies.

Scores from one of these exams are required unless you met one of the following exemptions:

  • English is the exclusive language of instruction at the undergraduate level
  • You earned a degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college or university not more than 5 years prior to the anticipated semester of enrollment
  • You completed at least two full-time semesters of graded coursework, excluding English as a second language (ESL) courses, at an institution where English is the exclusive language of instruction, not more than 5 years prior to the anticipated semester of enrollment

Please do not mail any paper copies of application materials. They will not be reviewed. Please only upload the required application materials with the Graduate School application. This includes transcripts. Applicants who are recommended for admission by the EP Graduate Studies Committee will receive further instructions from the EP Graduate Admissions Office. 

Application Status:

Monitor your application status by visiting the “Graduate Application Status” window within your MyUW portal (information on this is received after submitting an application). You may need to activate a NetID to gain access to the MyUW portal (information sent after submitting an application).

Most admissions decisions are made by the end of March or by early April. Applicants receive an e-mail from the EP Graduate Admissions Office with the admissions decision as soon as the office receives it.


Graduate-student funding is an important consideration for both prospective students and the Department. Apart from national fellowships, graduate students in the Department are funded by research assistantships (RAs), teaching assistantships (TAs), project assistantships (PAs), internal fellowships, or they are self-funded.  Prospective students interested in securing an RA position are encouraged to find information on the Department’s research activities, through web pages for example, and contact faculty investigators for the activities that align with the students’ interests.  Decisions on RA positions are made at the investigator level and not at the Department level.

For MS students, the selection processes for program admission and assistantship funding are made separately.

For PhD students, program admission and funding via assistantships are linked, subject to the following policies:

  • There is a period of guaranteed support of 5 years for PhD students entering with a bachelor’s degree and 3 years for PhD students starting with an MS degree.
  • If the Department extends an offer and the prospective PhD student accepts, the intention is to fund the student through degree completion, even if a student requires more time than the guaranteed period.
  • A student must maintain satisfactory progress toward the PhD degree, according to the NEEP and EM program policies and the Graduate School’s policies to continue to receive financial support.  It should be noted that research progress is required, regardless of the funding mechanism or funding level in order to maintain satisfactory progress toward the PhD degree.

  • Qualified students may be admitted without financial support if they guarantee their own funding.
  • A student’s appointment type (RA, TA, PA) may change. PhD students initially serving in TA positions typically move to RA positions when focusing on research.  However, changes in research funding from federal agencies may also require a student to take a TA or PA position, at least temporarily, after holding an RA or fellowship.  Students interested in gaining teaching experience may also request a TA position.
  • A student’s total assistantship support may be increased to no more than 50% time or reduced to no less than 33% time. Reductions are atypical, and the student’s workload would be adjusted, accordingly.
  • Because admission and financial support are linked, a prospective PhD student may not be admitted until the Department has made the respective funding decision or the student has provided evidence of external fellowship support or a guarantee of self-funding.

Further questions related to the Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics program admissions process may be directed to

Re-entry applicants:  If you were previously enrolled as a graduate student in the Department of Engineering Physics but have had a break in enrollment for a minimum of a fall or spring term, you will need to re-apply to resume your studies. Please review the Graduate School requirements for re-entry students. Your previous faculty advisor (or another EP faculty advisor) must be willing to supply advising support and should contact/e-mail the EP Graduate Admissions & Student Services Coordinator regarding next steps in the process.

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