Nuclear and Radiological Engineering and Medical Physics Qualifying Exams
Students will notify the graduate office of their intent to take the qualifying exam at least 3 weeks prior to the end of the semester preceding when they will take the exam. Exams will be administered during the Fall and Spring semesters and will be conducted no later than the end of the second month of the semester.
The objective of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is to assess your general knowledge of nuclear and radiological engineering (NE) or medical physics (MP). The examination philosophy is to evaluate your understanding of fundamental principles and your ability to apply these principles to solve problems. The English language will be used to solve problems or answer questions on the qualifying examination. This examination provides an early assessment of your potential to satisfactorily complete the requirements for the doctoral degree. All NRE/MP students entering the Ph.D. program in the Woodruff School are required to take the examination.
The exams are given twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. If you already have a master's degree and matriculate as a Ph.D. student, you must take the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination at the 1st opportunity after the one-year anniversary of your initial enrollment date in the Woodruff School graduate program. However, you may petition the Graduate Committee to defer a semester if the need for additional coursework is justified.
Those who matriculate as a M.S. student must take the qualifying examination no later than the two-year anniversary of your initial enrollment date in the Woodruff School graduate program.
Postponement of the exams will not be allowed as a general rule. However, some flexibility may be allowed for students who do not have an undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering or a closely related area and for those just returning to school after being in industry for some time. If you want to delay taking the qualifying exam, get an endorsement from your faculty advisor, and petition the Woodruff School Graduate Committee.
The dates of qualifying exams for each year are posted here: https://www.me.gatech.edu/qualifying-exam-timeline
Further information about the exam can be found in the Graduate Handbook, or online here: https://www.nre.gatech.edu/graduate-handbook.
NE and MP Qualifying Examinations Format:
The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination consists of a one and half hour oral examination in the area of Nuclear Engineering or Medical Physics. Details of the subject areas are given below.
The exam is scheduled over a one-week period in mid-fall semester and mid-spring semester. The dates are emailed to students as soon as they are scheduled.
This exam is required of all students appearing for the Nuclear Engineering Qualifying Examination. It is based on three subject areas, two of which are mandatory, and the third subject area is chosen by the student from a provided list. Courses on whose content the exam will be based are mentioned where available.
Mandatory subject areas:
- Fundamentals of Radiation Physics - NRE/MP 6756, Radiation Physics
- Fundamentals of Particle Transport - NRE 6101, Transport Fundamentals
Choose one of the following subject areas. Courses on whose content the exam will be based are mentioned where available.
- Radiation Detection (NRE/MP 6757)
- Radiation Protection and Dosimetry (MP 6405)
- Reactor Physics
- NRE 6201, Reactor Physics
- NRE 4210, Nuclear Reactor Theory
- Thermal Hydraulics
- NRE 4214, Reactor Engineering
- NRE 6301, Reactor Engineering
Note: Courses are provided as a guideline rather than a firm rule.
This exam is required of all students appearing for the Medical Physics Qualifying Examination. It is based on three subject areas as listed below. Courses on whose content the exam will be based are mentioned where available.
- Radiation Physics - NRE/MP 6756, Radiation Physics
- Radiation Detection and Protection - MP 6757 Radiation Detection, MP 6405, Radiation Protection and Dosimetry
- Radiation Therapy and Imaging - NRE/MP 6204 Radiation Therapy and NRE/MP 4750, Diagnostic Imaging
Note: Courses are provided as a guideline rather than a firm rule.
Grade Point Average Requirement
You must be registered for the semester in which you take the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and have full graduate standing. A minimum GPA of 3.3 is required to take the qualifying examination.
The oral examination will be administered by a faculty committee of three with expertise in your chosen examination areas. The Qualifying Exam Committee Chair will appoint the committee members. The committee will not consist solely of untenured faculty. It may however include up to one non-program faculty member. The thesis advisor is encouraged to attend the exam as an observer. They will not make comments during the exam, unless requested to do so by a committee member. The thesis advisor will not be present while the committee is making its final decision on the student’s Qualifying Exam performance.
Students who take the exam for the first time must pass all three areas.
- Should they fail one area, they have the option to retake for that area in the same semester.
- Should they fail in two or three areas, they will retake the entire exam in the next semester.
The student passes the exam if the committee members pass/fail vote is 3/0 or 2/1. If the vote is 1/2 or 0/3 and the exam is being conducted for the first time for that student, the student must retake the exam. The committee will summarize its decision and provide recommendations in a memo to the School Graduate Committee within five working days following the qualifying exam period. If the vote is 1/2 or 0/3 and the exam is a retake exam, the student fails. The appeal process (described below) is to be followed.
Grading and Notification of Examination Results
You will be evaluated on your performance in each area of the qualifying examination by the exam committee. The Graduate Program Committee reports the exam results to the Woodruff School faculty on a pass or fail. The faculty then meets to evaluate your overall performance on the entire exam. In nuclear and radiological engineering and medical physics, the results of the examination will be one of the following:
Pass: You will continue in the Ph.D. degree program and will prepare a Ph.D. proposal.
Fail: Students not passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination at the first sitting may be allowed to sit at the next offering of the examination for the one or more area exams that were failed. However, the faculty may advise the student after one sitting to leave the Ph.D. program. A student who fails the exam on the second attempt will not be able to continue their Ph.D. program. In retaking the qualifying exam, you may choose to be tested in a different area; however, only one attempt is allowed in this different area.