June 21, 2018 | ° F

MAE Department soaring to new heights with launch of Aerospace Engineering Degree

With such a growing demand for engineers, the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has decided to soon expand an already popular certification program to now include a full aerospace engineering degree program.

“The Department of MAE has more than 30 internationally renowned faculty members in residence,” according to the department’s website. “We take pride in a program that fosters collegial student-faculty relationships and prepares students for successful careers in industry, government and academia.”

The School of Engineering has cultivated a deep history in the field. According to its website, the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering was founded in 1908. The aerospace engineering option was later added in 1965.

The department saw that it had the opportunity to provide both domestic and international students the chance to study aerospace at Rutgers, which already has a strong tradition in the field, said Alberto Cuitino, professor and chairman of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

“Up until now, we (have offered) an accredited degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace,” Cuitino said. “Now the department will offer two independent degrees.”

The aerospace option has expanded to include a steady stream of students every year, said Assimina Pelegri, executive officer and undergraduate director of MAE. Because of the strong interest in the field, they thought it would be a great program to offer.

Rutgers will be the only school to offer such a degree within about a 200-mile radius, with the exception of Princeton University, Pelegri said. Rutgers will be the only public institution in New Jersey offering an aerospace degree, so it will be an attractive option for local students interested in the field.

“The current curriculum is modified so that the students taking the aerospace degree will start their courses in the third year,” Pelegri said. “They will also be required to take a second-year course called ‘Introduction to Aerospace Engineering’.”

MAE seized the strategic opportunity to build upon its core and sustained strength in aerospace to develop a new degree, Cuitino said.

This program creates a lot of opportunities for the University, he said. Since the aerospace degree program is new, it allows MAE to tailor a program that is current and cutting-edge.

“It wasn’t a major overhaul of the program,” Pelegri said. “It was more about strategically deciding when the courses (will be) offered and how we are going to allocate current resources in order to function well in both programs.”

Thomas Farris, dean of the School of Engineering, had seen numerous students, some of whom were from New Jersey, “passionately pursuing” aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue University during his time as a faculty member there. He is pleased that the University will now be able to provide more opportunities in the aerospace engineering field.

“The establishment of the aerospace engineering degree is yet another example of Rutgers Engineering serving the citizens of New Jersey and the region,” Farris said.

With the advent of new technologies, aerospace has rapidly transformed in complexity and sophistication, said Ken Johnson, advisory board chair for the MAE.

“(The) Rutgers Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has responded to that growth with this newly developed and recently announced program,” he said in an email. “Rutgers is offering its students an even stronger experience preparing (them) for advanced degrees or a career in aerospace engineering.”

Students have created a number of exciting designs for their senior design project, ranging from autonomous vehicles to machines that harness alternative energy, according to a brochure for MAE.

Job prospects for aerospace engineers are varied and wide-ranging. Although many aerospace graduates go on to work at companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, many go on to work in other branches of engineering and pursue graduate degrees.

 “You can see a lot of aerospace engineers going to work in traditional aerospace fields such as aviation, transportation and space exploration to engineering jobs in communications, theme parks and biotechnology. (They are not) confined ... to a specific type of industry,” Pelegri said.

Justin Lareau, a School of Engineering senior, has been actively involved in the Rutgers Mechanical Engineering Student Association. MESA has given him the opportunity to be actively involved in the MAE program and student community.

Having had the chance to preview the new aerospace curriculum, Lareau said there are a number of courses that he wishes he had the opportunity to take.

“From spacecraft design to aircraft stability and controls, I think aerospace-loving students will be presented with significantly more material that not only excites them, but also boosts their resumes for the aerospace industry,” Lareau said.

With so many options already available to students, the future will only get brighter with the introduction of the aerospace degree, Lareau said. Last summer, he had the opportunity to intern for TRU Simulation + Testing, which provided him with many experiences and real-world applications.

“Several aerospace companies already have a recruitment relationship established with the Rutgers Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department, and I think this major will draw in even more,” he said.

Francesca Falzon

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