Home < Schools, Colleges, and Programs < College of Engineering < Overview

College of Engineering

Overview

Engineering is a many-faceted profession. Engineers can apply their education to improve the standard of living in an undeveloped area of the world or push the boundaries of state-of-the-art technology. The common threads connecting those who aspire to be engineers are a curiosity about the physical world, a ability in mathematics and science, and a desire to produce or design systems and products that promote human well-being.

Potential engineers must develop unusually mature problem-solving abilities. The first step is to become very familiar with the language of mathematics and science. Without this competency, communication between technologically oriented people is limited. Once mathematics is understood, the foundation of how and why things happen in the physical world must be mastered in physics and chemistry courses. Students then begin to blend their basic knowledge and their communication and teamwork skills with practical experience to systematically attack a problem and develop possible solutions.

Most commercial products that we see around us were developed by engineers. Many societal problems need to be solved, and it will take engineers to solve them. For example, how can we clean up polluted air and water? How can usable materials be separated from "junk" and recycled to conserve material resources to reduce waste disposal problems? How can increasing needs for power and transportation be satisfied while simultaneously reducing pollution? How can the increasing noise level in society be reduced before it results in physiological or psychological damage? What new doors can be opened with developments in microelectronic and micromechanical sensors and devices? How can computers and information technology systems be designed to perform more tasks in industry and in the home? How can engineering principles be applied to repair the human body in the face of accident or disease?

The list of typical engineering issues makes clear why the modern engineer must have some understanding of people and their values. The engineer is asked frequently to make decisions affecting the development of society and the direction it will take. Engineers must understand basic economic principles, both national and international, of the problems they are solving. Today's engineers are citizens of the world, a fact reflected in the broad scope of their education.

The engineer works as a member of a diverse, multidisciplinary team and is often the leader. Such teams include both scientists and technicians. Scientists investigate the fundamental laws of nature and define the principles governing them. Engineers apply those laws and principles in solving problems and in creating something useful. That role is clearly different from the role of technicians, who are familiar with equipment and procedures and help both engineers and scientists. The technician's academic background usually includes less theory and is often completed in two years or less. Increasingly, engineers interact daily with not only other engineers, scientists and technicians, but also customers, clients, lawyers and other professionals.