Course Feature: NUC 323 Material Science

According to the science news website Science Daily, materials science is “an interdisciplinary field involving the properties of matter and its applications to various areas of science and engineering, including elements of applied physics and chemistry, as well as chemical, mechanical, civil and electrical engineering.”

The course NUC 323 covers how materials are used in nuclear engineering applications. Topics include overview of nuclear plant operations, atomic bonding, crystalline and non-crystalline structures, crystal defects and imperfections, diffusion, phase diagrams, mechanical and thermal behavior, stresses, fracture, failure analysis and prevention, structural materials, ceramics, corrosion, radiation effects on materials, materials commonly used in reactor core and nuclear plant design, and material problems associated with reactor core operation.

Shambhu Shashtry, the faculty program director for engineering technology, says NUC 323 is an important course for students because “Materials are the building blocks of any technology, particularly nuclear engineering technology. Mastering the materials is the only way to master the technology that uses those materials.”

According to the American Chemical Society, materials science spans so many disciplines and applications that people who work in this field have various educational backgrounds. Most people have chemistry, physics, or engineering backgrounds. Technical skills like math, computer, and science skills are required, but so are soft skills like critical thinking and good oral and written communication.

Shashtry says students in the bachelor’s in nuclear engineering technology program would be most interested in taking this course, though the course is also available as a technical elective to students in the other technology degree programs. Students should be aware, however, that the prerequisites to NUC 323 are physics and calculus. Students should check with their advisors for details.

Students have found the course beneficial and informative, and have shared comments like: “This course was the most challenging I have taken yet. However, the pace is perfect and the layout is intuitive.”

Faculty have also enjoyed teaching the course. Shashtry explains that on a score of 1–7, faculty have graded the course as 5 or above for its structure, learning activities, and graded assignments. Some noted the discussion posts in this course were the best student learning activities. Based on teaching this course, Shashtry says, faculty expressed interest in teaching additional courses because they enjoyed teaching the course to such engaged students.