Doctoral Program (NE, RHP, MP) Example Plan

Sample academic plan for the nuclear engineering doctoral program at the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering.

Course of Study

1.    The university requirements for the doctorate include the following:

a.    at least 108 graduate credits beyond the bachelor’s degree;

b.    at least 50% of the course work must be graduate stand-alone courses;

c.    a presentation of an original dissertation for which a minimum of 36 credit hours of dissertation research (thesis course) has been accumulated;

d.    a minimum of one year of residence, continuously, at OSU (i.e., three consecutive quarters as a full-time student);

e.    passing a preliminary oral examination in the major subject; and

f.     successfully defending the dissertation in an oral presentation to a panel of experts.

For other regulations, see the OSU Graduate School Catalog.


2.    In addition, departmental requirements include:

a.    passing a written qualifying examination for candidacy;

b.    on assignment from the student’s doctoral committee, taking and passing (B average or higher) such courses as judged desirable by the doctoral committee for satisfactory progress in doctoral research;

c.    calling regular (every 6 months recommended, but at least annual) meetings of the Doctoral Committee so that the student’s progress can be evaluated and guidance offered; and

d.    preparation and presentation of a written dissertation proposal - this paper will include a thorough literature review, outline of the proposed research project, and a description of the importance of the research with a perspective on the current state of the area of specialty.


3.    As noted above, the student’s principal direction in the course of study comes from the doctoral committee, in which the major professor has final approval.  The NSE Department members on the doctoral committee will generally expect:

  1. research credit in excess of 36 hours; and

  2. total course work credit of 72 hours or more, not including research. The minimum Graduate School requirement is 108 hours, including research.

These, however, are guidelines and the doctoral committee can change them at its discretion.

Doctoral Committees

1.    The principal authority over a student's program resides with the student's Doctoral Committee.  This committee is responsible for:

·      assuring that University and Departmental requirements are satisfied;

·      monitoring student progress;

·      assigning and approving courses of study;

·      approving dissertation topics and paths-forward; and

·      administering preliminary and final oral examinations.


2.   The committee consists of at least 5 members:

·      the student's major professor;

·      two other NSE faculty members;

·      the student's minor professor, or if no minor is selected, committee member may be from graduate faculty at-large and

·      one Graduate Council Representative.


Note that the composition of a student’s Doctoral Committee MUST be approved by the major professor.


3.   The committee is originally formed, with approval from the major professor, at the student's invitation.  The Graduate Council Representative is selected from a list provided by the Graduate School.  The Graduate Council Representative is a permanent member of the committee and attends all committee meetings, including the preliminary program committee meeting, the oral preliminary exam, and the final examination (dissertation defense).  Information on the GCR can be found at:


4.   The Committee should be appointed in the first term of attendance (matriculation).

Matriculation / Candidacy

1.  Matriculation (first term of attendance) qualifies the student to:

a.   select a general area of dissertation research;

b.   form a doctoral committee with the major professor’s guidance and approval; and

c.   hold the initial doctoral program meeting (prior to completing 18 credit hours or sitting for the qualifying exam, whichever is earlier).

2.   After matriculation, the student must pass a written qualifying examination (described below).  This examination must be taken before the end of the first 18 months as a PhD student.       

Written Qualifying Examinations for Doctoral Students

1.    A written exam (“the qualifier”) is required of all Ph.D. students.  Upon passing the exam, the student is categorized as a Ph.D. “candidate.”  An overall grade of 80% is required to pass the exam (see #6 below for more details).

2.    The examination is offered once each year in Fall.  Additional or alternate examination periods may be scheduled at the discretion of the Departmental Graduate Committee Chair.

3.    The examination will be supervised and evaluated by an examination committee chosen from the departmental graduate faculty.  The Chair of the Departmental Graduate Committee will chair the examination committee.  If the Graduate Committee Chair has one of their students sitting for the qualifier, an alternate will be named to chair the exam committee.

4.    All students entering the doctoral program are required to take the qualifying examination within 18 months of matriculation as a PhD student.  Typically, those students entering without a Master’s degree in Medical Physics, Nuclear Engineering, or Radiation Health Physics from OSU will take the examination in the Fall term of their second year.  Students continuing for the Ph.D. after receiving a Master’s degree in Medical Physics, Nuclear Engineering, or Radiation Health Physics at OSU generally will take the qualifying exam the next time it is offered after completion of their master’s final examination and thesis.

5.    The examination will require two working days and will be divided into three subject areas with weights toward the total score as indicated:

a.   Basic Nuclear Interactions (35%), this section is common to all degrees (NE, RHP, or MP) and consisting of one, three-hour, closed-book written examination covering material typical to undergraduate degrees and/or graduate courses in nuclear interaction physics, etc.  OSU Dept of Nuclear Engineering graduate courses covered in this part of the exam include:


NSE 531                    Radiophysics

NSE 536                    Advanced Radiation Detection and Measurement


b.   Core Nuclear Engineering, Radiation Health Physics or Medical Physics (40%), consisting of one, three-hour, closed-book written examination covering material typically found in the set of identified “core” graduate courses in NE, RHP or MP.  OSU Dept of Nuclear Engineering courses covered in this part of the exam include:


Medical Physics Core Courses

MP 562                                   Radiation Therapy

MP 563                                   Applied Radiation Therapy

MP 564                                   Applied Radiation Therapy Lab
MP 541                                   Diagnostic Imaging

Nuclear Engineering Core Courses

NSE 551/552/553                      Neutronics Analysis & Laboratory

NSE 567                                    Advanced Nuclear Reactor Thermal Hydraulics

NSE 574                                    Nuclear Engineering Design

Radiation Health Physics Core Courses

NSE 535                                 Radiation Shielding and External Dosimetry

NSE 582                                 Applied Radiation Safety

NSE 583                                 Radiation Biology

NSE 588                                 Radioecology

NSE 590                                 Internal Dosimetry

c.    Nuclear Engineering, Radiation Health Physics, or Medical Physics Selected Topics (25%), consisting of one three-hour, closed-book written examination in specialized topics within each student’s approved graduate program of study.  Student choice of topics will be solicited, but must be approved by the examination committee.


6.    The student passes the qualifying exam with a total score of at least 80% and partial scores (in each of the three subject areas described in No. 5 above) of at least 70%.  A student earning a total score between 70% and 80% or any partial score between 60% and 70%, shall stand for an oral examination by a committee of three faculty, appointed by the Chair of the examination committee.  This oral examination shall take place within two weeks following student notification of any deficiency.  Following this oral examination, the three-member committee will report the results to the examination committee where a decision will be made as to whether or not the student has passed the qualifier.

7.   Prospective doctoral candidates failing the qualifying exam may retake the test the next time it is offered, and then only with the following privileges and exceptions:


a.   The student may retake the exam only once.


b.   If the student’s total score on the first exam is over 60%, re-examination need only be taken on those portions of the test (e.g. Basic Nuclear Interactions, Core Nuclear Engineer or Radiation Health Physics, individually selected topics) for which the student received partial scores below 70%.  The original scores above 70% will be considered when calculating the re-examination score. The recalculated total score must be greater than 80%.


8.    Prospective doctoral candidates whose total grade falls below 60% on their first examination, may be dismissed from the program, or may at the discretion of the Departmental Graduate Committee, be given the opportunity to retake the entire exam.


9.    Students should begin preparing for and complete the oral preliminary exam within six months after having passed the qualifying exam

Preliminary Oral Examination

Ph.D. candidates will present their proposed dissertation research as part of their preliminary exam.  This formal seminar should be given within six months of passing the departmental qualifying examination and is to be a presentation of their planned research and a review of the literature supporting this plan. 

As a means for giving the student’s committee an early chance to help direct the doctoral research, the preliminary examina­tion will consist of discussions concerning the student’s research direction with a 30 minute (or amount of time determined by the major professor) presentation by the student on their proposed research.  The discussion is meant to identify strengths and weaknesses within the student’s preparation and proposal.  It is intended to be a constructive critique of the progress achieved to date, as well as to provide focus for the student’s research.  The oral preliminary examination will be scheduled for a minimum of two hours.


The remaining portion of the examination will focus on the student’s basic understanding of Medical Physics, Nuclear Engineering, or Radiation Health Physics (as covered in the qualifying examination) and the minor area(s), as well as all of the courses that the student has taken at OSU.

At least one complete academic term must elapse between the time of the preliminary oral examination and the final oral examination. If more than five years elapse between these two examinations, the candidate will be required to take another preliminary oral examination.

Doctoral Dissertation 

The dissertation should be a significant research contribution publishable in a recognized professional journal and should demonstrate the student's competence in conducting fundamental research.  It must represent a significant contribution to the existing body of knowledge in Medical Physics, Nuclear Engineering, or Radiation Health Physics.  The research topic must be approved by the student's Graduate Committee and the dissertation title must be approved by the Graduate School.  The dissertation must be based on the candidate's own investigation, show a mastery of the literature of the subject, and be written in credible literary form.  In order to have the efforts of the student recognized outside of OSU, the student must, in addition to dissertation requirements, prepare a paper which is suitable for submission to a recognized, scientific peer-reviewed journal.  With your major professor’s approval, this requirement can be satisfied by utilizing the “manuscript format” for the dissertation.  A final draft of this paper for submission must be presented to the major professor at least two weeks prior to the final oral examination.

A thesis guide is available at the Graduate School website:

Final Oral Examinations

The dissertation defense will be scheduled for two hours at a minimum.  The student is expected to display a mastery of knowledge in their field and professional maturity as a Medical Physicist, Nuclear Engineer, or Health Physicist.


Procedures Leading to the Doctoral Degree

Below is a brief list of the steps required to obtain the Ph.D. degree.  You should also become familiar with the specific and detailed information contained in the Graduate School Catalog as well as Departmental requirements.  Program meetings, preliminary oral exams, and final oral exams may be scheduled only during periods when classes are in session (including finals week).