Bachelor of Engineering Update
September 13, 2012
Luke Wachter '06 Th'07, '08 wrote his honors Bachelor of Arts thesis, published in one of the world's best materials journals, on the fracture of ice. While pursuing his Bachelor of Engineering, he researched the polar opposite topic of heat transfer. Finally, Wachter completed his interdisciplinary education—which defines the B.E. experience—with a Master of Science thesis on robotics.
The ability to teach a student methods and insights from several engineering fields of study is what attracts so many stellar B.E. candidates to Thayer in the first place. It's also what leads about half of them to pursue an advanced degree.
"What B.E. students learn at Thayer is how to solve multifaceted problems, and not to think of themselves as this kind or that kind of engineer," says Erland Schulson, chair of the Engineering Sciences Department and director of the B.E. program. "Students are learning elements of mechanics, electronics, controls, materials, and environmental impact. They are studying heat transfer and mass transfer, and they understand that the equations are identical."
That interconnectedness feeds the program, says Schulson, who has taught at Thayer for 34 years and noticed a few changes over the years. Students working in teams to complete a design project in ENGS 21: Introduction to Engineering, a class that has brought on innovations from a Gyrobike to a suction device that stabilizes tissue, can now take the class one of three times a year, keeping the average class size to 50. The moving target of course offerings for both undergraduate and graduate students has grown to include Materials in Sports Equipment, The Science and Engineering of Music, Intermediate Biomedical Engineering, Digital Image Processing, and Medical Imaging—to name a few. A number of faculty members have also been added to the roster, among them Margie Ackerman, Solomon Diamond, Jifeng Liu, Kofi Odame, Jason Stauth, Ulrike Wegst, and Brenden Epps.
"There are also more women earning their B.E. than there used to be," Schulson explains. "When I started, women made up 10 percent of the class, and now they represent 30 percent." The dual-degree program, which pulls in students for one year from top liberal arts colleges who later return to Thayer to complete their B.E., also attracts a significant number of young women, who were first allowed to take Thayer graduate courses in 1966.
And then some things haven't changed at all.
"Students are just as analytical, hardworking and highly disciplined as they always were. They're not just looking for the easy way through Thayer," says Schulson.