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Why study Mechanical Engineering?

Mechanical Engineering is one of the broadest areas of engineering, covering dynamics and control, thermodynamics and fluid mechanics, structures and solid mechanics and design and manufacture.

Core to Mechanical Engineering process is the ability to formulate a problem, identify potential solutions, analyze and model solutions and select the most appropriate solution within constraints. This approach is integrated within the program and is applicable across a range of professions, making graduates well prepared for a changing world.

Research Areas and Major Fields

Mechanical engineering is perhaps the most “broad-based” of the engineering disciplines. The links below show that graduates from mechanical engineering can find exciting careers in aerospace, automobile design, consumer electronics, biotechnology and bioengineering, software engineering, and business.

Following are the major field areas:

#1 Biomechanical Engineering

Biomechanical Engineering is focused on the application of mechanical engineering principles to human healthcare problems.

This area has undergone dramatic growth during the last decade and seek to improve healthcare — and thus people’s lives — by identifying and working on important medical problems that can be addressed by improved technology.

Research in Biomechanical Engineering spans from long-term basic science questions to the practical development of translational technologies.

Highly multi-disciplinary in nature, and funded by NIH, NSF, other federal agencies and industry, these research are conducted with a variety of collaborators across different engineering departments at universities, and with faculty and students from different medical schools and research centers.

#2 Controls

Tracing its origins to J. C. Maxwell’s early work on speed governors (1868), control theory has evolved to play an integral role in the majority of modern engineering systems.

Mechanical systems are becoming ever more complex, yet performance requirements are increasingly stringent. At the same time, dramatic developments in microelectronics and computers over the past few decades make it possible to use sophisticated signal processing and control methodologies to enhance system performance.

The area addresses the broad spectrum of control science and engineering from mathematical theory to computer implementation.

On the theoretical side, faculty and graduate students pursue research on adaptive and optimal control, digital control, robust control, modeling and identification, learning, intelligent control and nonlinear control, to name a few.

On the application side, research teams engage in projects involving a variety of mechanical systems such as robot manipulators, manufacturing systems, vehicles and intelligent vehicle highway systems, motion control systems, computer storage devices and biomedical systems.

Courses in this area cover linear system theory, digital control, nonlinear control, adaptive control, modeling and identification, multivariable robust control theory, real time use of microcomputers for signal processing and control, and control of robot manipulators.

Graduate students also take courses offered in other departments such as Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

#3 Design

Faculty in the Design field of Mechanical Engineering work on problems affecting the analysis, synthesis, design, automation, fabrication, testing, evaluation, and optimization of mechanical systems.

Research activities include the following: design of mechatronic devices; sport equipment and safety gear; multi-media design case studies that improve a designer’s efficiency; tribological studies of computer disk-drive and micromechanical devices; design and fabrication of composite materials; fracture analysis; design and computer control of robotic systems for manufacturing and construction environments; design of bioengineering devices for studying back pain; and the development of automated manufacturing environments.

Students learn to develop integrated manufacturing cells and machines that contain automated material handling systems, machining, tool path planning, sensor systems, quality control, and error handling.

Students are exposed to broad fields including composite materials, micro electromechanical systems, laser machining and laser processing of materials, thin film fabrication, and tool wear. Traditional topics such as stress analysis, tribology, fracture mechanics, gear-design, transmissions, mechanics of materials, and basic manufacturing process analysis, are also thoroughly covered.

#4 Dynamics

At its heart, the study of dynamics is the study of motion. Whether this motion involves automobiles, aircraft or the change of economic indicators, dynamics can be used effectively to gain insight and understanding.

Research addresses a range of topics, including dynamical systems theory, vehicle dynamics, bubble dynamics, computer simulation of dynamical systems, vibration and modal analysis, acoustics and acoustic control, and the development of efficient computational methods.

Such research synthesizes numerics, experiments and theory, allowing researchers to address fundamental questions while staying aware of real life limitations. Courses are offered in linear and nonlinear dynamics, deterministic and random vibrations, and continuous systems.

#5 Energy Science and Technology

Energy related research in Mechanical Engineering encompasses a broad range of science and technology areas spanning a variety of applications that involve storage, transport, conversion, and use of energy.

Specific areas of ongoing research include hydrogen energy systems, combustion of biofuels, pollution control in engines, development of next generation compression ignition engine technologies, radiation interaction with nanostructured surfaces, laser processing of materials, nanofabrication using lasers, combustion in microgravity environments, development of nanostructured thermoelectric materials, concentrating photovoltaic solar power, solar thermal combined heat and power systems, energy efficiency and sustainability of data centers, waste energy recovery, high performance thermal management systems for electronics, and ocean energy technologies.

Research in these areas ranges from fundamental research, that aims to understand and/or model critically important processes and mechanisms, to applied research that explores new energy technology concepts at the application level.

#6 Fluids

Training in the Fluid Mechanics group provides students with an understanding of the fundamentals of fluid flow. At the graduate level, all students are typically required to complete a one-year course in fluid dynamics before specializing in particular areas.

In addition, students  get a firm foundation in analytical, computational and experimental essentials of fluid dynamics.

Research activities span the Reynolds number range from creeping flows to planetary phenomena.

Topics of study include suspension mechanics, dynamics of phase changes (in engineering and in geophysical flows), earth mantle dynamics, interfacial phenomena, non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, biofluid mechanics, vascular flows, chaotic mixing and transport of scalars, bubble dynamics, flow in curved pipes, environmental fluid dynamics, external aerodynamics, unsteady aerodynamics, bluff-body aerodynamics, vortex dynamics and breakdown, aircraft wake vortices, vortex merger, vortex instabilities, rotating flows, stability and transition, chaos, grid turbulence, shear turbulence, turbulence modeling, shock dynamics, sonoluminescence, sonochemistry, reacting flows, planetary atmospheres, ship waves, internal waves, and nonlinear wave-vorticity interaction.

#7 Manufacturing

There has been a resurgence of  manufacturing  in this this dynamically-changing field, which encompasses several subdisciplines including Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Materials Science and Engineering.

Manufacturing covers a broad range of processes and modeling/simulation/experimentation activities all focused on the conversion of materials into products.

Typical processes range from conventional material removal by cutting to semiconductor and nanomaterial processing techniques such as chemical mechanical planarization to additive processes such as  3D printing and spray processing.

Modeling and simulation attempts to predict the behavior of these processes to insure efficient and optimal performance.

A companion set of activities in sensors and process monitoring, automation, internet based design to manufacturing, cyber-physical infrastructure, quality control, reliability are part of manufacturing.

Manufacturing is receiving special attention at the moment in the United States as a driver of innovation and competitiveness and a major contributor to employment.

Overall, manufacturing combines classical topics in design, controls and materials processing.

The activity in manufacturing today is built on a long history of fundamental research and education by pioneers such as Erich Thomsen and Shiro Kobayashi.

Recent activities have moved away the more traditional areas of metal forming and plasticity to design and advanced manufacturing integration, new manufacturing technologies, specially for energy reduction and alternate energy technologies, precision manufacturing, computational manufacturing and sustainable manufacturing.

Much of the research includes development of tools for engineering designers to include the impact of manufacturing in the design process as well as, more recently, the life cycle impacts for the product.

Education and research in manufacturing is exceptionally well integrated with industry in terms of internships, research support and student placement.

Manufacturing continues to be a critical field for research and industrial development over many sectors.

All future energy, transport, medical/health, life style, dwelling, defense and food/water supply systems will be based on increasingly precise elements and components produced from increasingly challenging materials and configured in complex shapes with demanding surface characteristic.

This includes manufacturing products for an energy and environmentally aware consumer (such as autos, consumer products, buildings, etc.), manufacturing alternate energy supply systems (e.g. fuel cells, solar panels, wind energy systems, hybrid power plants, etc.), machine tools and the “machines that build the products” requiring less energy, materials, space and better integrated for efficient operation and efficient factory systems and operation.

This is all required in an environment of increasing regional, national and international government regulations covering all aspects of the manufacturing enterprise.

This means that for the foreseeable future, the field is expected to be well supplied with challenges to drive innovation in research and education.

In summary, modern manufacturing can be characterized by three basic processing strategies – additive, subtractive and near-net shape.

These are somewhat self explanatory in their names.

Near-net shape, aka forming/forging and molding techniques. Subtractive, for example, machining, is the “old standby” process used extensively in basic machine construction but is quite limited as applied to higher technology products.

Additive manufacturing, ranging from deposition processes to the more recent rapid prototyping approaches, is an area that offers much future potential for both accurate and fast creation of complex products.

Additive manufacturing (AM) and Rapid-Prototyping (RP) have received a great deal of attention for a number of years. In particular, the idea of 3-D Printing (3DP) has received quite a large amount of press.

According to ASTM, AM is defined as the “process of joining materials to make objects from  3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies.”

In many cases, this process is referred to as additive- fabrication, processes, techniques, layer manufacturing and freeform fabrication. The basic term is used in conjunction with the product life cycle from rapid-prototyping pre-production to full scale production.

#8 Materials

Fiber-reinforced materials such as carbon, aramid and glass composites have the highest strength and stiffness-to-weight ratios among engineering materials.

For demanding applications such as spacecraft, aerospace and high-speed machinery, such properties make for a very efficient and high-performance system.

Carbon fiber composites, for example, are five times stiffer than steel for the same weight allowing for much lighter structures for the same level of performance.

In addition, carbon and aramid composites have close to zero coefficients of thermal expansion, making them essential in the design of ultra-precise optical benches and dimensionally stable antennas.

Some carbon fibers have the highest thermal conductivities among all materials allowing them to be incorporated as heat dissipating elements in electronic and spacecraft applications.

In addition to their inherently unique properties, composite materials can be tailored for specific applications and several functions can be integrated into a single structure.

For example, an integrated structure requiring both high stiffness but low thermal conductivity can be manufactured using mixtures of various composites. Or, a precise satellite antenna that has both dimensional stability as well as excellent microwave performance can be constructed using specific amounts of carbon fiber.

In this way, using composites, true integration of materials, manufacturing processes and design is possible.

With the incorporation of sensors, fiber optics, microprocessors and actuators, a smart or adaptive structure can also be created which can alter its response to specific inputs by detecting and responding to various stimuli such as force, displacement, temperature, or humidity.

Incorporating such elements into a single material can only be done through the use of composites, resulting in materials and structures with infinite variability and optimum utility.

#9 Mechanics

Having its roots in the classical theory of elastic materials, solid mechanics has grown to embrace all aspects involving the behavior of deformable bodies under loads.

Thus, in addition to including the theory of linear elasticity, with its applications to structural materials, solid mechanics also incorporates modern nonlinear theories of highly deformable materials.

This includes synthetic polymeric materials, as well as biological materials.

Courses and research topics include linear and nonlinear elasticity, plasticity at large deformations, shell theory, composite materials, directed (or Cosserat) continua, media with microstructure, continuum electrodynamics, and continuum thermodynamics.

Students also take courses in related areas, such as dynamics, fluid mechanics, and mathematics.

A major research area involves finite deformation of highly deformable materials including computational aspects pertaining to the development of constitutive theories, special solutions, and theoretical predictions of material response.

Examples of this work include: ductile metals under special loading programs (e.g., strain cycling); microcrack growth in brittle materials; constructing new theories of inelastic behavior in the presence of finite deformation which explicitly incorporate microstructural effects such as dislocation density; and thermodynamical developments for deformable media undergoing finite motion.

Material and stress characterization issues in a wide range of solids, including metals, composites, electronic materials, and geologic materials.

Both experimental and analytical research are conducted in the areas of nondestructive stress evaluation, characterization of thin solid films, large deformation material behavior, and microstructure evaluation.

Stress and property evaluation are topics being pursued for bulk materials and thin films. A variety of approaches are involved including ultrasonics, X-ray diffraction, and custom designed micro-electro-mechanical structures (MEMS).

Particular emphasis is directed to the relationship between material processing and its effect on the resulting microstructure and the mechanical response.

Similarly, work in the fields of plasticity and quantitative texture analysis is directed toward providing descriptions of the macroscopic, observable behavior of polycrystalline materials in terms of the microstructure inherent within these materials.

#10 Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS)

Over the past 20 years, the application of microelectronic technology to the fabrication of mechanical devices has revolutionized the research in microsensors and microactuators.

Micromachining technologies take advantage of batch processing to address the manufacturing and performance requirements of the sensor industry.

The extraordinary versatility of semiconductor materials and the miniaturization of VLSI patterning techniques promise new sensors and actuators with increased capabilities and improved performance-to-cost ratio, which far surpass conventionally machined devices.

Research applies to a broad range of issues in miniaturization, including solid, materials, design, manufacturing, fluidics, heat transfer, dynamics, control, environmental, and bioengineering.

#11 Nanoengineering

Significant breakthroughs over the past two decades in a wide range of disciplines have generated new interest in science and engineering at nanometer scales.

The invention of the scanning tunneling microscope, the discovery of the fullerene family of molecules, the development of materials with size-dependent properties, and the ability to encode with and manipulate biological molecules such as DNA, are a few of the crucial developments that have changed this field.

Continued research in nanoscale science and engineering promises to revolutionize many fields and lead to a new technological base and infrastructure that will have major impact on world economies.

The impact will be felt in areas as diverse as computing and information technology, health care and biotechnology, environment, energy, transportation, and space exploration, to name a few.

Some key areas of research include nanoinstrumentation nano energy conversion, nano bioengineering and nano computing storage.

The field of nanoengineering is highly interdisciplinary, requiring knowledge drawn from a variety of scientific and engineering departments.

In addition to traditional courses covering fundamentals of mechanical engineering, there are specialized courses in microscale thermophysics, micro and nanoscale tribology, cellular and sub-cellular level transport phenomena and mechanics, physicochemical hydrodynamics of ultra-thin fluid films, and microfabrication.

#12 Ocean Engineering

The oceans have long been recognized as an essential part of our global environment. Covering more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface, the oceans affect all life on earth directly as well as indirectly.

Ocean Engineering involves the development, design, and analysis of man-made systems that can operate in the offshore or coastal environment.

Such systems may be used for transportation, recreation, fisheries, extraction of petroleum or other minerals, and recovery of thermal or wave energy, among others. Some systems are bottom-mounted, particularly those in shallower depths; others are mobile, as in the case of ships, submersibles, or floating drill rigs.

All systems should be designed to withstand a hostile environment (wind, waves, currents, ice) and to operate efficiently while staying environmentally friendly.

Ocean Engineering study as a major field of study within Mechanical Engineering requires satisfying core requirements in marine hydrodynamics and marine structures.

Disciplines supporting ocean engineering include materials and fabrication, control and robotics, continuum mechanics, dynamical system theory, design methodology, mathematical analysis, and statistics.

Ocean Engineering can also be used as a minor subject with one of the other major field disciplines.

Contemporary research issues include: vortex and free surface interaction, roll-motion damping and dynamics of ships, dynamic positioning of mobile offshore bases, hydroelastic behavior of floating airports, waves in a two-layer fluid, high-speed multi-hull configuration optimization, marine composite materials, reliability-based structural design, fatigue behavior of marine materials, Bragg scattering of waves, computational methodologies for nonlinear waves, tsunami propagation, sea-bed mechanics, and alternative renewable energy: floating offshore wind park, ocean wave and tidal energy, loads on floating turbines.

#13 Transportation Systems

An important aspect of mechanical engineering is the planning, design, and operation of transportation systems.

As society recognizes the increasing importance of optimizing transportation systems to minimize environmental degradation and energy expenditure, engineers will need to consider major innovations in the way people and goods are moved.

Such innovations will require competence in vehicle dynamics, propulsion and control, and an understanding of the problems caused by present-day modes of transportation.

Top Schools for Mechanical Engineering

School Avg GRE Quant
 MIT  166
 Stanford University  167
 Harvard University  166
 University of California Berkeley  165
 University of Michigan Ann Arbor  166
 Georgia Institute of Technology  164
 California Institute of Technology  169
 UCLA  166
 Purdue University West Lafayette  164
 UC Urbana-Champaign  166
 Cornell University  165
 University of Texas Austin  165
 Princeton University  167
 Northwestern University  166
 Texas A&M University  164
 Carnegie Mellon University  166
 Brown University  165
 Columbia University  167
 Duke University  164
 John Hopkins University  166
 Michigan State University  162
 The Ohio State University  164
 Pennsylvania State University  163
 UC San Diego  166
 University of Minnesota – Twin Cities  164

In addition, there are many great universities around the world which are highly reputed for Mechanical Engineering:

Canada

  • University of Toronto
  • McGill University
  • University of British Columbia
  • McMaster University
  • University of Waterloo
  • Queen’s University
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Calgary

Germany

Australia

  • University of Melbourne
  • University of New South Wales
  • The Australian National Univesity
  • Monash University
  • University of Sydney
  • RMIT
  • University of Queensland
  • University of Western Australia

Europe & UK

  • University of Cambridge (UK)
  • University of Oxford (UK)
  • Imperial College London (UK)
  • ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Switzerland)
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden)
  • Lund University (Sweden)

 

Common Questions

What are the different degree offered under Mechanical Engineering?

M.S. in Mechanical Engineering

M.S. degrees are granted after completion of programs of study that emphasize the application of the natural sciences to the analysis and solution of engineering problems.

Advanced courses in mathematics, chemistry, physics, and the life sciences are normally included in a program that incorporates the engineering systems approach for analysis of problems.

Students must have a bachelors degree in one of the accredited engineering curricula or satisfy the equivalent of a bachelors degree in engineering as determined by the department concerned for admission to this program.

M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering

M.Eng. is an inter-disciplinary field and is offered in collaboration with several other engineering departments for the purpose of developing professional leaders who understand the technical, environmental, economic and social issues involved in Mechanical Engineering.

This program could be both full-time or part-time. In many schools, M.Eng students cannot be appointed to Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) or Reader positions.

Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering can be done in conjunction with a PhD (for the MS/PhD option) or alone.

Degrees are granted after completion of programs of study that emphasize the application of the natural sciences to the analysis and solution of engineering problems.

Advanced courses in mathematics, chemistry, physics, and the life sciences are normally included in a program that incorporates the engineering systems approach for analysis of problems.

Students must have a bachelors degree in one of the accredited engineering curricula or satisfy the equivalent of a bachelors degree in engineering as determined by the department concerned for admission to this program.

Five Year B.S./M.S. in Mechanical Engineering

This program is for ME undergraduates that allows them to broaden their education experiences.This is a terminal, full-time program.

In contrast to the regular M.S. program, it is a course-based program. Students in the 5 year B.S./M.S. program are also able to take some courses in professional disciplines such as business or public policy. This two-semester program is NOT for students with the desire to continue to the Ph.D. These students are advised to apply directly to the M.S./Ph.D. or Ph.D. program.

The program is geared primarily toward students who intend to join industry after receiving their Master’s degree, rather than pursuing a Ph.D. and/or academic career.

Should I apply for an M.S. degree or M.S./Ph.D. degree?

If you are admitted to the M.S. degree, it is a terminal degree. In many universities, if a student finds that s/he wants to go on for the Ph.D. after completing the M.S., they would need to petition to add the degree and the petition is not guaranteed to be approved.

The M.S./Ph.D. is a continuous program in which a student, after having completed the degree requirements, can earn the M.S. and automatically move forward to the Ph.D.

Where you should apply for the M.S. or the M.S./Ph.D, is completely up to you.

If you want to join industry and build your career, M.S. may be a better option for you.

If you aim for research and move to teaching, M.S./Ph.D. may be a better option for you.

What type of academic career opportunities are available for a M.S./Ph.D. student?

After completing your M.S./Ph.D., you can apply for various Assistant, Associate and Full professors positions at various universities such as University of Central Florida, Case Western Reserve University, PennState, University of Michigan and Colorado School of Mines.

You can also seek research positions at various companies and labs such as Ventions, Analytical Mechanics Associates, Inc., Xcell Biosciences, 44 Energy Technologies, Modern Electron, Nanoscience Instruments, Nexkey, Sky H20, DMG, North Inc., 3D Systems, Supplier Link Services, KLA Tencor, Novasentis, ADINA, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Clear Science Corp.

To find more academic opportunities after completing your M.S./Ph.D. degree, please check out Computeroxy.com that is the leading academic web portal for careers of professors, lecturers, researchers and academic managers in schools of computer, electrical, mathematical sciences and engineering worldwide.

 

References

  • University of California, Berkeley

 

 

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