Master of Science and PhD, Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics

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.

Learn everything you need to know about master’s and PhD degrees in our top-ranked nuclear engineering and engineering physics degree program in our handbook, the Graduate Guide: Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics.

Degree Information

The Department of Engineering Physics (EP) reviews Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics graduate student applications for the fall semester of each year. The application deadline is January 1. The Department does not currently offer spring or summer admissions cycles. In order to be reviewed for admission, ALL application materials must be submitted online through the Graduate School’s application portal by the 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 hardcopies of transcripts unless specifically instructed to do so by the EP Graduate Admissions Office.
  • 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. Scores should be electronically sent directly from Educational Testing Service (ETS) to institution code 1846 (no department code is needed). 

Scores from one 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 course work, 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.

Note:  Graduate-student funding is an important consideration for both prospective students and the Department, and decisions on admission and funding are made separately.  Apart from national fellowships, graduate students in the Department are funded by research assistantships (RAs) or teaching assistantships (TAs), 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.

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.