What does a Nuclear Scientist do?

Nuclear scientists conduct research on the tiniest of fundamental particles found inside and around atomic nuclei in academic, industrial, and medical settings. Many scientists specialize in theoretical physics, performing complex calculations to better understand how particles work and predict how they will behave in hypothetical situations. A nuclear scientist can also work in applied research, performing experiments and assisting in the development of new technologies based on nuclear physics and chemistry principles. Nuclear scientists can work in a variety of settings, including universities, laboratories, power plants, and hospitals, with the right education and training.

A nuclear scientist contributes to the collective knowledge of particle physics and nuclear chemistry conducting experiments, making observations, and developing mathematical formulas. Radioactivity, decay, fusion, and atomic interactions are all areas of study that professionals often specialize in. Nuclear chemists and physicists design highly detailed, controlled experiments using established scientific methods. A scientist may work in a small, private laboratory or a facility with a mile-long particle accelerator, depending on the nature of their research. To ensure meaningful results in any setting, a nuclear scientist must be organized, objective, and thorough in his or her research.

Many nuclear scientists use their knowledge and research experience to help develop new medical and industrial technology. A nuclear medicine specialist studies the potential applications of various radioisotopes in medicine, diagnostic imaging technology, and practical treatment methods. Scientists can also use ionic and molecular compounds to help develop new plastics, metal alloys, or packaging materials in a manufacturing plant.

A large number of theoretical and experimental physicists work as full-time or part-time university professors to help train the next generation of physicists and chemists. Working at a college also provides a source of funding for a nuclear scientist’s research as well as access to excellent facilities and technology. He or she also has the distinct advantage of working alongside highly-trained professors from a variety of scientific disciplines.

A nuclear scientist typically needs a master’s degree in the field from an accredited university. Scientists with master’s degrees who want to work in research and development may be able to find work, but those who want to design and conduct independent research projects will typically need a doctorate. Furthermore, many aspiring clinical laboratory scientists enroll in medical school in order to obtain official doctor of medicine credentials.

In any setting, new scientists usually start out as assistants or associates. They use the knowledge they gained in college laboratory courses to develop expert research techniques. A nuclear scientist typically earns more responsibilities as time goes on, as well as the opportunity to design his or her own studies.