Current Students

Just getting started

OK, so you’ve just joined Professor Hall’s group.  Here are some key things you need to know…

Where do the students sit?

We have student desks in Ferris Hall, rooms 503, 504A, and 504B.  Each of these rooms is accessible through a cipherlock or by key.

How do I get access to the building?

See the Nuclear Engineering support team (Greg Tipps and Scott Emert) for access to the cipherlock code (they are on the first floor of Pasqua).  If you need a physical key (for our labs, for example), see the Nuclear Engineering Department office on the third floor of Pasqua for a key request form.  You will also want to get an alarm access form at the same time, because the perimeter of both Ferris and SERF are maglocked, as are our labs in SERF.

What about computer access?

Prof. Hall’s group runs a Mac-based network that supports his group and Dr. Skutnik’s group.  Please see Prof. Hall or the grad student managing the main server (Matt Cook) for getting a user account set up.  Your login will work on any of our common iMacs.  If you need access to one of our more sensitive systems, please talk to Professor Hall or Matt Cook.

I’m on a research project or an assistantship – how do I get paid? 

Make sure you have filled out all the necessary paperwork with Lydia in the Nuclear Engineering Department Office (or CIRE if you are a CIRE student).  If you have problems (pay is wrong, etc.), Lydia is your first contact.  If you are an undergrad, you also have to turn in timecards to the Nuclear Engineering Department Office.

Is there a group mailing list?

Yes —  See for details on how to sign up for this list.  Being on this list is important — that’s how we distribute important info and news to the group.  We also have a LinkedIn group, mostly for keeping in touch with our alumni — go ahead and join now.

Are there general rules and expectations for the students?

Absolutely.  Professor Hall expects his students to follow some simple guidelines in their work:

  • Your time here should be one of the most intellectually enriching and enjoyable periods of your life.  There are lots of opportunities — but the onus is on you to engage, participate, and enjoy them.
  • Don’t do stupid things.
  • Don’t embarrass us (including yourself, Professor Hall, the Department, or the University).
  • Don’t hurt yourself or others, especially through inattention to safety.

Students also often ask if we have set hours, etc., for student presence in the office.  Basically, we expect our students to behave as responsible adults, and to set their schedules in a manner that accomplishes their work effectively.  In some cases, students work odd hours — we’ve had projects that require interactions with people around the world, and so sometimes we all time-shift our work hours to allow phone or videoconferences with collaborators all around the world.

We expect our students to learn how to take intellectual leadership in their projects as well.  A key piece of this is documenting and publishing their research.  As a rule of thumb, we expect students to be producing results at the level that they can be lead author on at least one peer-reviewed publication per year.  This is, of course, case-by-case, as some of our projects are sensitive or proprietary and not every student is full-time, but we definitely expect and encourage our students to publish.  That also includes presenting their work at professional meetings when possible.

Progressing nicely

You’ve been here a while.  You’re becoming an old hand at this…

I want to present my work at a conference.  What do I do?

There are several important steps.  First, make sure there is funding to support the travel (unless you are planning on paying for it yourself).  In most cases, we can find a means to support it, but it may not be obvious at first.  Some contracts supporting graduate students have specific restrictions — for example, ORNL contracts typically require that students traveling on that work have to have their travel arranged through ORNL, and so whatever restrictions or processes ORNL has in place apply to the student.  There are also opportunities to get travel “mini-grants” from the UT administration, which really helps us stretch our student budgets.

Presuming there is funding, you have to file a travel authorization request with the Department office (we run all our student travel at UT through Nuclear Engineering).  When you file the form, talk to Kristin or Gisela about the receipts you’ll need, the vouchering and advance process, etc.  Once the travel authorization is processed, you’re approved to go!

Register, submit abstract, write your talk (and paper if the conference requires a paper).  Make sure you run the talk and the paper through Dr. Hall to make sure it is as good as it can be.  Do not wait until the last minute!  Then go, give a great talk, and make lots of connections!

What’s the process for submitting a paper to a journal?

As you start to think about a publication, sit down with Prof. Hall and jointly decide what journal is best for the paper.  This is important, because you want the work to be widely read, and relevant to the readership.  For example, the Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry is a great place to publish fundamental nuclear forensics research — but not so good if you are working on a something more physics oriented.

Also, each journal has their own requirements for formats, etc.  Check their websites for “Instructions for Authors” or something similar.  Pay attention to these — submitting a paper in the wrong format will just waste your time and the journal editor’s time too.  As with presentations, no papers get submitted until Dr. Hall has okayed it.  Do not wait until the last minute!

Our authorship procedure is as follows:

  • First author should be the principal writer (and the principal researcher on the project or task, usually).
  • Other authors should include everyone who contributed to the work in a meaningful way.  If you are undecided, include them or check with Prof. Hall.  Also note that all authors are responsible for the content of the paper, so they should all read the drafts.
  • Prof. Hall, as major professor, normally is listed last in the author list, unless he is the principal writer.  Don’t think you’re insulting him, it’s traditional (and he has tenure already).

Lastly, some journals will hit you up for page charges.  Kristin and Gisela know how to handle these, so take any page charge bill to them.

As a mid-stream graduate student, can I apply for external fellowships, summer programs, etc.?

Absolutely.  We have a number of fellowships and external enrichment opportunities that our students have been successful in competing for.  These include the Nuclear Forensics Graduate Fellowship, the Nonproliferation Graduate Fellowship Program at NNSA (now called the NNSA Graduate Program), and others.

Finishing up

Your degree is nearly accomplished. The end is in sight…

When does the paperwork start?

Near the end of the semester before you intend to graduate.  The specific dates are available on the Graduate School website — although they are not where you expect.  Look under the UT Faculty and Staff page for a summary of deadlines.  Pay attention to the deadlines — and please remember that you have to build in plenty of time for your committee to review your project report/thesis/dissertation, as the case may be.  It also pays to schedule your defense early and well in advance — we invariably get clogged up with student defenses near the deadline, and there are only so many hours in the day…

Pay close attention to all the instructions on the Graduate School website.

How do I get the Nuclear Security Science and Analysis Graduate Certificate?

Ah, this is the University of Tennessee.  Surely you are not surprised that there is a form for this?  Fill out the Completion of Certificate Program form (look at the Graduate School under Forms) and route it through the Nuclear Engineering Department Office.