Jun 17, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2015-2016 
Rensselaer Catalog 2015-2016 [Archived Catalog]

School of Engineering

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Schools

Dean: Shekhar Garde

Associate Deans: Assad Oberai, Kurt Anderson, Matthew Oehlschlaeger

School of Engineering Home Page: http://www.eng.rpi.edu


Rensselaer’s School of Engineering is committed to educating engineers prepared to solve society’s technical challenges with integrity and excellence.

With the vision of being a top tier school of engineering with global reach and global impact, the school is committed to technological excellence and to providing a superior education that leads to highly successful careers for its students.

In addition, the school has a mission to educate the leaders of tomorrow for technology-based careers; to celebrate discovery and the responsible application of technology; to create knowledge and global prosperity.

Graduates of the school become leaders in engineering ready to solve practical problems. Our students have a solid foundation in math, science, and engineering fundamentals, complemented by in-depth training in their chosen engineering field. Through hands-on learning, laboratory experiences, and multidisciplinary design opportunities, they gain valuable experience in the practical application of that knowledge. The school enhances their skills in innovation, leadership, and communication, and ensures that they have a broad exposure to humanities, social sciences, and ethics so that they practice engineering in a socially responsible and ethical manner. Also instilled are curiosity, innovation, and the love of learning.

Highly cognizant of how rapidly technology and engineering are changing, Rensselaer continually enhances and revitalizes its curricula and facilities. Recent examples include the new building for biotechnology and interdisciplinary studies, a new wind tunnel, current development of a state-of-the-art electrical engineering undergraduate laboratory, and the nanotechnology characterization core.

The School of Engineering faculty members are committed to undergraduate and graduate education, and all hold the highest attainable degree in their fields. They are active in highly impactful and pioneering engineering research and act as key consultants to industry and the government.

Two other features that help distinguish a Rensselaer education are the mobile computing program and the studio classrooms. All undergraduate students are required to have laptop computers and the campus has primarily wireless connectivity. The classrooms take advantage of that connectivity both for content delivery, discovery based learning, and contact between faculty and students. The studio classrooms are equipped with highly advanced interactive learning tools, provide the small comfortable environment that enhances the School of Engineering’s personalized approach to teaching, maximizing student interaction among classmates and professors, and encouraging hands-on, collaborative projects.

Teamwork is yet another aspect of real-world engineering practice that Rensselaer cultivates through both its coursework and facilities. A prime example is the Institute’s 11,000 square-foot O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory (MDL). This distinctive, first-class facility consists of a state-of-the-art design space, rapid prototyping and fabrication space, and a system integration space for both mechanical and electrical as well as electromechanical products. Here, students work in cross-disciplinary teams on a variety of industry-and service organization-sponsored and entrepreneurial projects, all with practical and real-life applications.

Augmenting the course experience for both undergraduate and graduate students are research facilities, internships, and the opportunity to study abroad. The school’s experimental research facilities are state-of-the-art and are complimented by one of the largest academic computing facilities in the world. Sponsoring both undergraduate and graduate research are a variety of government (federal and state) agencies as well as private industry.  All research foci can be found at http://research.rpi.edu

Rensselaer offers research opportunities in major interdisciplinary research centers, which primarily involve School of Engineering faculty and students. Among these centers are the Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS), Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS), the Center for Modeling Simulation and Imaging in Medicine (CeMSIM); the Center for Integrated Electronics (CIE); NYS Center for Future Energy Systems (CFES), the Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated Systems (cMDIS); the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applicaiotns (IDEA); The Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center (RNC), the Scientific Computation Research Center (SCOREC), and the Center for Computational Innovations (CCI). More information about these centers is available at http://research.rpi.edu.

In addition to the major Institute centers, the School of Engineering conducts research in its own multidisciplinary centers. These include the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation and the Environment (CITE), the Center for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (CEES), the Center for Flow Physics and Control Research (CeFPaC), the Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT-ERC), the Gaertnner Linear Accelerator Center (LINAC), and the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC, Web site: http://smartlighting.rpi.edu/).

All departments offer both undergraduate and graduate curricula and degree programs in their fields. In the list below, programs associated with post-baccalaureate degrees only are indicated by (G).


Degrees Offered and Associated Departments

Aeronautical Engineering
Biomedical Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Civil Engineering
Computer Systems Engineering
Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems (G)
Electrical Engineering
Engineering Physics (G)
Engineering Science       
Environmental Engineering
Industrial and Management Engineering
Materials Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Nuclear Engineering

Systems Engineering and Technology Management (G)
Transportation Engineering (G)


Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
Biomedical Engineering
Chemical and Biological Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering
Industrial and Systems  Engineering 
Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering
Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
School of Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Industrial and Systems Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering
Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
Industrial and Systems Engineering

Civil and Environmental Engineering


Overview of Undergraduate Programs

Baccalaureate Program

In general, the Bachelor of Science program is intended for students seeking careers in engineering-related areas or as a basis for advanced study in engineering or in fields other than engineering. To obtain a B.S. in an engineering field, students must fulfill the general requirements listed in the Academic Information and Regulations section of this catalog and satisfactorily complete the prescribed engineering curriculum. Certain courses, such as one-credit-hour non-engineering courses graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis or more than six credit hours of ROTC courses, cannot be applied toward the degree requirements. Also noteworthy is that courses in accounting, industrial management, finance, entrepreneurship, and personnel administration that are offered by the School of Management, as well as ROTC courses, will not satisfy the humanities and social sciences requirement, but may be taken as free electives.

Although many students enter at the freshman level and achieve all their educational objectives at Rensselaer, a significant number find it accommodating and advantageous to enter at intermediate levels. Entrance into the engineering program is particularly attractive to graduates of two-year colleges. Rensselaer also has articulation agreements with a number of four-year universities for “3-2” programs. All such students enter with advanced standing and credit according to their credentials.

Professional Program

For most students, specialization and determination of the degree program that matches their individual career goals develops in earnest during the third year. At this point, a student may pursue either a fourth year for their Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in an engineering specialty or, if accepted by the Office of Graduate Education for the Professional Program, undertake a coherent program integrating advanced undergraduate and graduate study leading to a Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) or Master of Science (M.S.) degree in a specific field, and receiving a Bachelor of Science along the way. This professional program offers post-baccalaureate studies specifically intended as preparation for professional engineering practice. Graduates of other colleges and universities may be admitted with advanced standing (the Professional Program excepted) if they have appropriate accredited baccalaureate engineering degrees or the equivalent. Admission to a professional degree program is based on demonstration of adequate preparation and competence. The faculty in each curriculum judges qualifications for admission. Application should be made directly to the Office of Graduate Education.

Engineering Core Curriculum

All School of Engineering students entering Rensselaer directly from high school begin their curricula with the core engineering program. The primary objective of this program is to provide students with a liberal education and to develop a broad scientific and technical foundation for their future specialization. This predisciplinary-specific program usually extends through the third semester but may extend into the third academic year. During this phase, the primary focus is on the foundations of engineering as a unified field. The foundation in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, combined with the specified engineering sciences (e.g., strength of materials, thermal-fluids, electric theory, etc.) satisfies basic technical knowledge requirements without regard to the intended field of specialization. In the humanities, arts, and social sciences area, courses not only enrich the student as an individual but also provide the perspective professionals need to make decisions that will affect society.

The electives within the core engineering program, together with the required basic content, give each student the opportunity to refine his or her goals and develop a broad and solid foundation. Elective courses also allow undeclared students to sample professionally oriented courses from several curricula so as to make a more enlightened choice of major. A student can also choose electives to provide a broader base or use them to focus on a particular field at an early stage. An imaginative student, with faculty counsel, can develop any number of creative study programs. It is also possible to major in one branch of engineering and obtain a concentration in a second branch.

Students need not begin specializing in a particular area until the fourth semester of study. However, when choosing electives, students must consider that each engineering discipline requires certain courses be taken earlier as field (or discipline) prerequisites. Courses required by name, required technical/multidisciplinary/science elective, or similarly designated subsets of course (except where explicitly stated otherwise) to be applied toward the student’s program curriculum or minor may not be taken on a Pass/No Credit basis.

To provide proper guidance, each student is assigned a faculty adviser who is knowledgeable in core engineering matters and can help the student plan a program to best meet his or her educational and career objectives. Once a student identifies a specific curriculum to pursue, a new adviser, who is particularly aware of the opportunities for advanced study in this area, is assigned.

The combination of the core engineering program with the subsequent discipline-specific courses provides a coherent yet flexible curriculum that allows students to obtain an engineering education at all levels in multiple focus areas. The overall School of Engineering program is structured to permit students to select plans of study that fit their individual goals, aptitudes, and interests. It also enables students to enter and leave at points most appropriate to their individual plans and to facilitate entrance at intermediate levels in the undergraduate and graduate programs.

All elements of the curricula, including both core and discipline-specific courses, are under continuous review to ensure the application of new pedagogies and teaching methods and the introduction of courses covering the latest technological and computing and analysis advances. Topics such as quality, ethics, cultural sensitivity, safety, environmental impact, and contemporary issues related to science and engineering, are constantly integrated into curricula. Additionally included in Rensselaer engineering curricula is the topic of entrepreneurship. Through these efforts, Rensselaer ensures that leadership, interpersonal communications, teamwork, problem formulation, system synthesis, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills are practiced and enhanced.

To provide a clear picture of what prospective engineering students can expect in their first two years at Rensselaer, a template showing how the core engineering program proceeds can be found in the Programs section of this catalog.

Special Undergraduate Opportunities

Undergraduate Research Experience
At Rensselaer, involving undergraduates in real-world engineering research is of paramount importance. Through the Undergraduate Research Program (URP), described in the Educational Resources and Programs section of this catalog, undergraduates work directly with faculty and/or graduate students on projects requiring critical inquiries. These studies involve exciting areas of leading-edge technological research and have the potential to result in groundbreaking discoveries. Involvement in undergraduate research can be arranged strictly for the experience, for credit, or for pay. Students apply through direct contact with faculty seeking students via Web site or campus advertisements.

Cooperative Education
By carefully structuring their programs and taking courses during the summer, some students may augment their academic course work with work experience through the Cooperative Education program. Studies and work assignments are scheduled after consultation with their curriculum adviser. Through careful planning and effective use of summer courses, some co-op students complete their academic program in four years. Some delay graduation for a full academic year to obtain additional work experience. Additional information on Rensselaer’s Cooperative Education Program can be found in the Student Life section of this catalog under the Center for Career and Professional Development.

Study Abroad/Exchange Programs
Study abroad has become an integral part of a well-rounded undergraduate experience. Students who spend time abroad will gain a deeper understanding not only of the culture in which they will be living, but also the culture of the U.S. and its place in today’s global society. A period of study abroad allows students to develop a broader perspective on their academic field of study while earning credit towards a Rensselaer degree.

Rensselaer offers a variety of study abroad and exchange opportunities at top universities and institutes around the world. Most semester opportunities require junior standing and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Occasionally, students choose to study abroad for an entire academic year. Most study abroad and exchange programs are managed by the Office of International Programs. 

For more information, please contact the Office of International Programs, Karen Dvorak, dvorak2@rpi.edu or Jamie Obst at violaj2@rpi.edu. Additional information may be found at http://undergrad.rpi.edu  (click on Office of Intl. Programs tab).

The schools chosen for this new program will be renowned in the field of engineering education, will teach in English, have diversified curriculum course offerings, have a large base of international students, and be willing to exchange undergraduate engineering students with Rensselaer. Students interested in this program must demonstrate superior academic records, maturity, and a willingness to fully participate in this exchange program. This new program will be strongly recommended for all Engineering students.

At the present time, Rensselaer’s School of Engineering also advocates a voluntary international experience as an ideal means to promote a broad-based engineering education, develop the “citizen engineer,” and provide undergraduate students with a global perspective. To facilitate such opportunities, the School has helped formulate and actively participates in the Global Engineering Education Exchange (Global EE) program. Oriented primarily to undergraduate students, this program offers them the chance to spend one or two semesters at an international university which could be followed by an industrial internship in that country. Preferred timing for this experience is the junior year, and students normally apply in the fall or spring of their sophomore year.

Global EE offers students the chance to study and learn in the native language of the host country. Additional opportunities allow students to pursue foreign study opportunities at universities where the courses are presented and taught in English. As a result, while students may benefit from knowledge of a foreign language, it is not a requirement for participation in this program. Refresher language instruction in French and German is usually given in the summer preceding the fall semester for those who have prior language experience and will be studying in the foreign language. Approximately 37 U.S. universities and over 50 universities in the rest of the world participate in the Global EE program. People interested in the Global EE program should contact Karen Dvorak, dvorak2@rpi.edu or Jamie Obst at violaj2@rpi.edu. The Global EE Web site can be found at www.iie.org.

Overview of Graduate Programs

The School of Engineering offers four graduate degrees through which students may achieve their objectives. These include the Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Engineering (M.Eng.), Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees.

Master’s Programs

Both the M.S. and M.Eng. degree programs focus on engineering fundamentals at advanced levels, and both include significant elective opportunities that permit students to individualize their study plans. Either program provides an excellent basis for further graduate work in engineering, and neither includes a foreign language requirement.

The Master of Engineering program is designed primarily for students preparing for professional practice and does not require a thesis. Admission is based on the student’s demonstration of adequate preparation and competence. Applications for admission should be transmitted to the Office of Graduate Education. Note that many students complete a Master of Engineering and then pursue a Ph.D.

The Master of Science program encompasses diverse educational needs and is designed primarily for students intending to obtain a Ph.D. degree. Admission requires a baccalaureate degree in an area appropriate to the individual’s proposed plan of graduate study and could conceivably be outside the field of engineering. Those who do not have a B.S. in Engineering, however, may be required to complete some extra course work that does not qualify for graduate credit. Depending on the department in which the degree is being pursued, a thesis may be required.

Doctoral Programs

A doctoral student formally affiliates with the department where activities most closely relate to his or her advanced study goals. However, the range of inquiry may cut across department and school lines, so that research opportunities are extremely broad, and students can pursue highly individualized programs. There are no foreign language requirements.

The Doctor of Engineering degree is characterized by the special nature of the thesis. Thus the student, working with an adviser, proposes an engineering problem of substance and develops a solution. The student must demonstrate ability to apply scientific principles to meet engineering needs, with due regard to social and economic factors and within a reasonable time constraint. The presentation and defense of his or her conclusions before a doctoral subcommittee and guests serves as the final examination for the degree.

The Doctor of Philosophy program is the traditional degree with a thesis that involves substantial original research. The program follows the general rules of the Office of Graduate Education.


Interdisciplinary Degree Programs

Rensselaer has long understood that neither student career interests nor modern industry needs are easily pigeonholed into a single discipline. In fact, the discovery of new and more advanced technologies more often than not results from combining the knowledge of a variety of disciplines. Rensselaer is, therefore, resolved to become a leader in providing numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary study.

In keeping with this commitment, the School of Engineering has developed a variety of special programs that bridge one or more departments or even Institute schools. These include both degree and research programs that allow students to develop a breadth and depth of knowledge in more than one discipline. By their nature, these programs are highly flexible and often involve working in teams with faculty and students representing multiple disciplines.

In addition to opportunities in the School of Engineering described within the School of Engineering section of this catalog, other interdisciplinary programs available at Rensselaer are listed in the Interdisciplinary Studies Index of this catalog and are described fully in the section pertaining to the associated Institute school or division.




Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Schools