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KNOXVILLE — Graduate enrollment in nuclear engineering, while dropping nationally, has surged at the University of Tennessee thanks to a new online nuclear engineering graduate program.

Dr. H. Lee Dodds, head of nuclear engineering at UT, said students can earn a master’s degree in nuclear engineering or a graduate certificate in nuclear safety via the Internet.

The program addresses a critical U.S. shortage of nuclear engineers, and UT is the only school offering it via live, interactive delivery on the Internet, Dodds said.

“Demand for nuclear engineers and specialists has risen with the recent increased interest in nuclear generated electricity by electric utilities and more use of nuclear medicine, but the number of trained nuclear engineers and specialists has been dropping,” Dodds said. “We are taking the university to students, instead of requiring them to come to campus.”

According to Business Week, the number of bachelor’s degrees in nuclear engineering dropped 20 percent in 2000 and master’s degrees dropped 6 percent.

UT, however, saw graduate enrollment in nuclear engineering increasing by 50 percent over the past two years, which is due mostly to the new online programs.

“UT continuously assesses industry needs for online programs,” Dr. Robert Leiter, dean of university outreach and continuing education, said. “These new advanced nuclear engineering programs highlight our initiatives to meet industry need.”

Dr. Fred Tompkins, interim dean of engineering, said students enrolled in UT’s online nuclear engineering classes must meet the same admissions requirements and academic standards as other students.

“The College of Engineering is enthusiastic about the possibilities of Internet-delivered education meeting the growing need for well-educated nuclear safety specialists and engineers,” Tompkins said.

For more information, send e-mail to disteducation@utk.edu or call 800-670-8657.