College of Engineering Reengineers for the Future
New degrees, new structure aim at emerging fields
In a move that reflects the interdisciplinary nature of research in a constantly changing field, the College of Engineering has undergone its first major restructuring in more than 35 years.
The new structure, two years in the making, was effective July 1.
“It became clear that our faculty is highly accomplished in research and education and is poised to make another upward leap,” says ENG Dean Kenneth Lutchen. “But the college’s organizational structure, largely a product of the 1950s and ’60s, needed to be changed to better facilitate advancement. There was general agreement that we required a new structure that is grounded in tradition, yet flexible enough to position students to meet the challenges of engineering’s future.”
ENG has consolidated four of its traditional academic departments into three and added two divisions that will offer a suite of new degree programs. The aerospace and mechanical engineering and manufacturing engineering departments have been merged into a single mechanical engineering department. The biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering departments remain unchanged.
The mechanical engineering department now offers three versions of an accredited bachelor’s degree. One is a traditional mechanical engineering degree; the others are mechanical engineering degrees with concentrations in either aerospace engineering or manufacturing engineering. The latter two require students to select their professional and technical electives, as well as their senior design projects, in accordance with the theme of their chosen concentration. The concentrations will help prepare students for careers in aerospace or manufacturing engineering, while providing a foundational bachelor’s degree in the well-known discipline of mechanical engineering. The concentrations will be formally noted on student diplomas and transcripts.
At the graduate level, the mechanical engineering department will continue to offer Master of Science and doctoral programs in mechanical engineering, as well as Master of Science programs in manufacturing engineering and global manufacturing.
Students already enrolled in the older versions of the aerospace or manufacturing engineering programs will be able to complete their degrees, but those programs will not be available to entering graduate students this year or to new undergraduates beginning in fall 2009.
Two new divisions have been created to facilitate interdisciplinary research in areas that draw faculty from all engineering departments, from the College of Arts and Sciences physics and chemistry departments, and from the Goldman School of Dental Medicine.
The division of materials science and engineering encompasses research in such diverse areas as biomaterials, electronic and photonic materials, materials for energy and the environment, and nanomaterials. The college had announced earlier this year that it would offer new Master of Science and doctoral degree programs in materials science and engineering.
The division of systems engineering draws from faculty researchers from all engineering departments, from the CAS computer science and mathematics departments, and from the School of Management. They will be conducting research in such areas as sensor networks, cooperative control, robotics, intelligent simulation, systems biology, and manufacturing systems. The division is responsible for the college’s long-standing doctoral degree program in systems engineering and will complement it with Master of Science and Master of Engineering programs within the next year. The M.S. programs will have a research-based focus and will require students to complete a thesis; the master’s in engineering will be targeted primarily at professionals in industry and will not require a thesis.
Separately, the biomedical engineering department has added a professional Master of Engineering for those interested in the medical device and biotechnology industries. The one-year degree program caters to professionals already in these industries or students who want an additional year beyond their bachelor’s degree to prepare for the engineering and innovation fundamentals associated with new biomedical technology products.
“These research-based divisions are perfectly suited to today’s engineering environment,” Lutchen says. “As the profession becomes increasingly multidisciplinary, agencies that support engineering research are funding cross-cutting projects that are likely to have great impacts on society. For several years, our faculty have been conducting such research, and these divisions further ease the interaction our faculty have with each other and with colleagues in BU’s College of Arts and Sciences, School of Medicine, and elsewhere. We are already beginning to see these efforts bear fruit in the form of numerous interdisciplinary grant proposals and funding.”
The divisions also give the college the ability to adapt to changes in engineering in the coming decades, he says. Moreover, ENG plans to introduce undergraduate concentrations in other emerging fields. Lutchen has asked the faculty to design concentrations in energy and environmental systems and in nanotechnology.
“By all indications, engineering research will advance rapidly in the coming years,” Lutchen says, “and having an interdisciplinary focus allows the college to keep up with these changes.”8 Comments