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Nuclear Science, Technology, and Policy (Graduate Certificate)

Nuclear Science, Technology, and Policy Graduate Certificate

The Nuclear Science, Technology, and Policy Graduate Certificate integrates policy and management with nuclear science and technology to prepare students from diverse educational backgrounds for careers managing and leading nuclear policy organizations across a spectrum of activity in safety, security, safeguards, and non-proliferation.

Visualization of an atom with hexagon pattern in the background

About Our Certificate

The certificate courses offer fundamental knowledge of concepts in nuclear science and technology that are relevant to policy issues and also provide an introduction to topics in safety, security, and nonproliferation, which occupy the bulk of government concerns with nuclear issues. Finally, the Certificate will allow students to interact with policymakers in the field through briefings, simulations, and exercises at the Certificate’s Northern Virginia locations and institutions, agencies, and other partners in Washington, DC.

This Certificate is a joint program among the Department of Science and Technology in Society, the School of Public and International Affairs, and the Nuclear Engineering Program. Students who have either at least a BS in a technical or policy related discipline are encouraged to enroll in this program.


12 hrs
Total Credit Hours



What You'll Study

The total number of credit hours required is 12. The Certificate requires completing two dedicated (“core”) courses: the anchor course, STS/SPIA/NSEG 5284, and a capstone course (offered as GRAD 5134 Interdisciplinary Research – this course will only count toward the Certificate when it is offered as the Nuclear Science and Technology Policy Certificate Capstone). In addition, each student selects one technical course, and one social sciences course (“electives”). Since some electives are offered under “advanced topics” course numbers, these courses can only count toward the certificate if they are offered on specific topics. We have provided a tentative list below (“related”); this list is not meant to be comprehensive. The certificate faculty will consider other related courses, existing and new ones, to count as electives toward the certificate. In all instances, the selection of elective courses needs to be approved by a student’s advisor.

The core courses will be co-taught by faculty members from engineering/science and policy/STS. The two core courses explicitly target both technical and non-technical students.

The anchor course is designed to provide a broad overview of both technical and non-technical matters related to nuclear science, technology, and policy, and to introduce fundamental terms, categories, and processes, often in a hands-on manner.

The capstone course will include two main activities: 1) critical analysis of technical challenges and policy dilemmas in the nuclear fields; 2) engagement with specific case studies and current issues. For both activities, we will invite experts from various government and nonprofit organizations in the Washington DC Metro area to give seminars and to participate in the formation and evaluation of case studies. The students in the capstone will engage in a semester-long problem-based learning project that they will develop with their peers and instructors throughout the semester. They will apply the conceptual tools, theories, and methods learned in the other certificate courses, and present a final report to a relevant agency or decision-maker.

Why choose this program?

  • We analyze how society affects the development and implementation of scientific, technological, and medical knowledges and practices and how scientific, technological, and medical pursuits affect society. 
  • The research and scholarly interests of our faculty cross a wide range of disciplinary boundaries.
  • The graduate program in STS at Virginia Tech prepares students to be productive and publicly-engaged scholars, advancing research. 
  • Full range of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities
  • Our program offers two options to accomodate part-time or full-time enrollment. 
  • All classes are taught in small seminars and offer personal interaction with faculty and peers. 
  • Conduct research that integrates science and technology with societal institutions, norms, and practices.
  • Part-time program and evening classes cater to working professionals. Convenient to the Washington DC Metro at West Falls Church. 
  • All classes are taught in small seminars and offer personal interaction with faculty and peers. Students from all academic and professional backgrounds are welcome.

Admissions and Tuition

Admissions Requirements

Admission to the Graduate School and completing a Graduate Certificate Application are required for all students. For both degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students, the Graduate School requires completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of 3.0 or better for admission to Certificate Status. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA < 3.0 may qualify for Commonwealth Campus admission. Students pursuing a degree and a certificate simultaneously are classified within their degree program. Certificate credits may be used to meet degree requirements if they are appropriate for inclusion on the degree Plan of Study. The faculty administering the Certificate will assist students with determining course selection.



Current Students

Currently enrolled Virginia Tech students may apply for this certificate by simply filling out the application form and submitting it to the Graduate School.

Graduate School
Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown
Virginia Tech (0325)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Fax: (540) 231-2039
Phone: (540) 231-8636

External Students

Anyone not currently enrolled at Virginia Tech must officially apply for Graduate Certificate status at

Contact Us

Sonja Schmid

Alireza Haghighat

Patrick Roberts

Program Leaders

Matthew Wisnioski
Graduate Director
331 Lane Hall 

Sonja Schmid
NCR Co-Director
Northern Virginia Center

Janet Abbate
NCR Co-Director
Northern Virginia Center