Nuclear and Radiological Engineering and Medical Physics Qualifying Exams

 

Timing

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.

Objective

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.

Examination Schedule

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 with a bachelor's degree 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, along with further information about the exams in Section 3.11 of this Graduate Handbook, or online here:

http://www.me.gatech.edu/graduate/handbook/phd/quals. Descriptions of exam topics can be found here in Appendix D of this 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.

NE Exam

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 chose by the student from a provided list. Courses on whose content the exam will be based are mentioned where available.

Mandatory subject areas:

  1. Fundamentals of Radiation Physics - NRE/MP 6756, Radiation Physics
  2. 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 and Protection
    • NRE/MP 6757 Radiation Detection
    • MP 6405, Radiation Protection and Dosimetry
  • 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.

MP Exam:

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.

Subject areas:

  1. Fundamentals of Radiation Physics - NRE/MP 6756, Radiation Physics, MP 6405, Radiation Protection and Dosimetry
  2. Fundamentals of Radiation Detection - MP 6757 Radiation Detection
  3. 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.

Exam Committee

The oral examination will be administered by a faculty committee of three with expertise in your chosen examination areas. The Program Chair will appoint the Qualifying Exam Committee. 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. He/she 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.

Exam Vote

The student passes the exam If the 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 detailed recommendations in a memo to the School Graduate Committee within two days of the exam. 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/fail/pass-with-condition basis. 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 be asked to leave the 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.

Pass With Condition: A student whose performance has been deemed to be marginally deficient, perhaps on a subset of the material covered, will be offered the option of Pass With Condition. In this case, the student will re-take an oral-only examination with a minimum of two of the three faculty who administered the first oral exam at a time roughly one month from the time of the original exam. The area(s) of deficiency will be communicated clearly to the student and the re-examination will focus on this material. A successful re-examination will result in the student having passed that area exam; a failed re-examination will constitute a second failure. A student offered Pass With Condition has the option to decline, instead, re-taking the full oral examination the next semester it is offered.