So, today, I just received the last of my graduate school admission decisions. Now, I have the tough job of making a decision of where to begin the next chapter of my life. I am interested in continuing my education by pursuing a graduate degree in Nuclear Engineering. Some universities accepted me as a masters student, while others accepted me as a PhD student. Finding the best school is going to be a challenge.
My first acceptance was back in February, when I received an email from the University of Wisconsin. They informed me that I was admitted to the masters program in Nuclear Engineering. I was very excited by this admittance, because I knew when I was looking at schools that they had one of the leading programs in nuclear fusion research. The one downside to going to the University of Wisconsin is that it is in the midwest, far away from home. I like living in the same state that my family lives in, and being far away from them would be difficult. However, there is a part of me that loves adventure and exploring new things, so traveling to the midwest might be a very enjoyable experience. Finally, there are professors that are doing some amazing research on magnetic confinement neutronics, lithium blanket design, and reactor system studies.
My second acceptance was from Purdue University. I was informed in early April that I was admitted to their PhD program in Nuclear Engineering. Purdue is another great school with a well-respected engineering department. One thing I need to keep mind when making these decisions is differentiating between the research areas within the Nuclear Engineering program. For example, at Purdue, they have a significantly larger representation in fission research areas than in fusion research areas. I would still be able to pursue my interests at Purdue University, but it would be in a smaller community, with less professors and possibly less support.
I received my third and final acceptance today from the University of California, San Diego. They informed me that I was accepted to the masters program in Mechanical Engineering. Now, you are probably curious why I didn’t apply to UC San Diego’s Nuclear Engineering program? Well, they don’t have a Nuclear Engineering program. Instead, there are professors within the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department that are working on fusion energy. In fact, they were home to one of the largest national efforts in fusion research with the ARIES Program. The ARIES program involved performing design studies with tokamaks, stellarators and reversed-field pinches. It is apparent from this project that UC San Diego is a great place to study fusion science, and could position me to lead important studies coming out of graduate school. Also, outside of academics, I have traveled to UC San Diego before (when I was considering it for undergrad), and really enjoy the campus and the location.
Making this decision won’t be easy, and I am going to sit down the next couple days and really hash out what is most important to me, and what each university can provide for me going forward. I plan on continuing on, if I go to Wisconsin or UC San Diego, to pursue a PhD in the field as well. I want to launch myself to the forefront of the field, so I can help lead global efforts on making fusion energy viable as a stable energy source. If you do not already know, the National Academy of Engineering has already identified “providing energy from fusion” as one of the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering (read more here). If fusion is one of the 14 most important challenges engineers will face in the 21st century, I want to do everything I can to make sure that we are able to achieve fusion as a society within the next 100 years.
For now, though, it starts with finding where to begin this journey. Check twitter for updates on my grad school decision!