Graduate Education at NSCL and MSU

First and foremost, NSCL views itself as the training ground for the nuclear scientists of tomorrow. Graduate students can learn from the best in any number of topics, which can be explored on our Faculty Research Areas page. As a national laboratory—and home to the nuclear physics graduate program ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report—NSCL offers graduate students the opportunity to study and conduct research with some of the world’s top scientists in the premier rare-isotope accelerator facility in the U.S. In fact, 70 graduate students currently are taking advantage of these opportunities at NSCL.


Graduate student Carla Benatti gets hands-on with the S800 spectrograph.

NSCL’s research is viewed as central to the nation’s advancement of nuclear physics and related instrumentation technologies, and our position grows even stronger as we advance toward the development of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Graduate students in our program benefit from close collaboration with our faculty and staff, our ongoing research activities and one another.

With almost 40 years behind us, we now have an alumni network that includes people in high-ranking positions all over the world. Faculty members, researchers, leaders in industry and executives with major corporations can all be found in this group. A graduate degree from NSCL prepares you for success in any career. It says that you have mastered a rigorous curriculum and have developed the discipline, analytical skills, and collaborative methods required to work productively and add value to any enterprise.

Our graduates are in high demand and they are the best testimony to the quality of our graduate education program. With an advanced degree related to nuclear physics, you can teach or conduct research at a university or industrial setting, or even get into law in the U.S. patent office or business on Wall Street. Not only can our large network of alumni help you make this decision, they can help you get there.


Graduate student Greg Pang works with the emerging technology of RF Carpets used in advanced beam cooling technologies.

Once you make a decision, the Ph.D. requirements and curricula differ depending on whether you matriculate in the Department of Chemistry or in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Based on your background, the Graduate Advisors in each department will put together an individual curriculum for you. All NSCL graduate students actively participate in research discussions, nuclear seminars, departmental colloquia and the daily laboratory business.

For a more complete look at where you might fit in, you can view a sample of a typical chemistry curriculum and a typical physics curriculum.

Essential to a doctoral degree is that you develop and then demonstrate the ability to conduct vital, independent research. The strong interaction between the experimental and theoretical scientists, and the frequent visitors and users of the facility, create an open and academically stimulating atmosphere. You will perform your research at NSCL under the guidance of a faculty member with a joint appointment in your department and at NSCL. After you advance to Ph.D. candidacy, it usually takes two to four years to complete the original research that forms the basis for your dissertation.


The rural setting of Michigan State University is a treat in the fall.

But your entire life won’t be spent in the lab. As residents of the greater Lansing area, Michigan State University students are a select group of academically motivated women and men. They come from every county in Michigan, every state in the nation and 130 countries around the world. They form a diverse community representing a wide range of ethnic, racial, political and religious backgrounds.

MSU is considered one of the most beautiful university campuses in the nation. The Red Cedar River flows through it, connecting the traditional ivy-covered brick buildings of the original campus with the newer facilities, such as the state-of-the-art science building, the athletic complex, the medical and law colleges, and the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts. At the heart of the campus—and of MSU’s land grant heritage—is a magnificent 140-year-old horticultural garden, its park-like beauty setting the tone for all landscaping throughout the campus.


Lansing - the capital of Michigan - was recently named on of the top 10 best places for young adults to live by Kiplinger.

East Lansing is a thriving, welcoming community and a quintessential college town. It neighbors on the state capital of Lansing and the economic strength of the area is based on three General Motors plants and state government as well as the university.

For more information and a more detailed look, browse through our Graduate Brochure.