Jun 18, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2008-2009 
Rensselaer Catalog 2008-2009 [Archived Catalog]

School of Engineering

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Schools & Departments

Acting Dean: Timothy Wei

Associate Deans: Joe H. Chow, Richard N. Smith

Director of International Programs:  Lester A. Gerhardt

Director of Core Engineering: Mark W. Steiner

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

Rensselaer’s School of Engineering is committed to technological excellence in integrating research and education and in educating for career success.

Outstanding leadership in innovative and progressive education is a Rensselaer hallmark. Rensselaer is renowned for producing visionary and versatile technological leaders with a superior reputation for their global impact. Solidly endowed with the fundamentals of math, science, and engineering as well as invaluable research, communication, and entrepreneurial expertise, Rensselaer engineering graduates demonstrate an exceptional propensity for practical application of their knowledge. In addition, the inclusion of a strong humanities and social sciences component within this broad education and a full spectrum of activities, both in and out of the classroom, enhance human relations skills and generate a commitment to ethical behavior and social responsibility.

Our mission is to educate leaders of tomorrow for technology-based careers; to celebrate discovery, and the responsible application of technology; to create knowledge and global prosperity.

Our vision is to be a top tier school of engineering with global reach and global impact–committed to technological excellence by integrating research and education, and in educating for career success.

Highly cognizant of the constant evolution in the field of engineering, Rensselaer is dedicated to continually enhancing and revitalizing its curricula and facilities. Evidence of this dedication is its initiatives in such emerging fields as information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. Among these are the new biotechnology and interdisciplinary research building, the ongoing attraction of leaders in these fields to our already excellent engineering faculty, and the development of expanded opportunities for research within these and other developing fields at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Key to promoting such new initiatives, as well as enhancing traditional disciplines, is Rensselaer’s world-class faculty, all of whom hold the highest attainable degree in their fields. In addition to being actively engaged in research and teaching, most also keep their finger on the pulse of the world through consulting or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Especially appealing to Rensselaer’s exceptional faculty and students alike are its superlative laboratories and facilities that enable them to conduct oustanding research and innovation in education pedagogy. These include studio classrooms that, in addition to being 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.

Commitment to mobile computing and interactive delivery are also features that distinguish Rensselaer engineering programs from those at other universities. As noted in the Educational Programs and Resources section of this catalog, the Institute mandated that all undergraduate students have laptop computers as of the fall of 2002. This mandate was issued in recognition that the entire world is moving in the direction of near constant computer access. In addition, the program supports the interactive delivery initiative, in which lectures are combined with recitation, modeling, simulation, and laboratory exercises. Unlike the traditional professor-centered straight lecture format, interactive delivery centers on the students and allows them to interact with each other as well as the instructor. Through these new programs, students experience greater freedom, are no longer tied to a desk for their computing needs, and are prepared for what they will find in the real world.

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 is access to numerous research centers and computing resources. These include one of the largest Class 100 clean-room facilities on an academic campus, a 100-ton-g centrifuge, the Advanced Manufacturing Laboratories, and the student-faculty shop.  Taught and researched in the clean-rooms are integrated circuit and interconnect technology. The centrifuge, part of an NSF-funded CEES center, is used for geotechnical research and is a state-of-the-art facility. The manufacturing laboratories provide students an opportunity to design and manufacture their own product to realistic specifications.  Engineering students also have access to a suite of advanced modeling and simulation software made available through Rensselaer’s participation in the Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education (PACE), a joint philanthropic initiative of General Motors, EDS, Sun Microsystems, and Siemens to support key academic institutions worldwide with state-of-the-industry computer-based design, analysis, and manufacturing tools.

Other specialized and more discipline-oriented facilities include laboratories in areas such as fluidization, heat transfer, biological engineering, biomedical engineering, structures, earthquake engineering, image processing, plasma dynamics, mechatronics, microelectronics, microwaves, photonics, electrical machines, power systems and electronics, electron microscopy and materials characterization, subsonic and super-sonic flow, tribology, viscoelasticity, two-phase flow, mass spectrometry, and ion physics.

Sponsoring both undergraduate and graduate research are a variety of government (federal and state) agencies as well as private industry. As a result of focusing research on topics of significant commercial interest, Rensselaer, in relation to other major university engineering programs, has one of the largest fractions of support from private industry.

Rensselaer offers research opportunities in major interdisciplinary research centers, which primarily involve School of Engineering faculty and students. Among these centers are the Academy for Electronic Media, Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS), Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, the Center for Integrated Electronics (CIE), NYS Center for Future Energy Systems, The Center for Nanotechnology Research, and the Scientific Computation Research Center (SCOREC). These centers are interdisciplinary, so that center projects include students from each of several curricula. For example, in the CIE, students from many departments (e.g., Physics; Materials Science and Engineering; Mechanical, Aerospace; and Nuclear Engineering; Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering; Chemical and Biological Engineering; and Civil and Environmental Engineering) are members of teams that conduct government- and industry-supported basic and applied research.

Projects in CIE currently under way include multilevel interconnects, chemical-mechanical polishing, polymers for interlevel dielectrics, compound semiconductors, and wireless manufacturing programs that employ flexible technologies and organizations, as well as improved communications to help solve manufacturing problems. Also world-renowned is SCOREC’s simulation-based engineering approach in which state-of-the-art computers and numerical models are applied to problems of great societal need.

In addition to the major Institute centers, the School of Engineering conducts research in its own multidisciplinary centers. These include the Center for Infrastructure and Transportation Studies, Center for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research, the Multiscale Science and Engineering Research Center, and the Center for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.

Substantial Rensselaer research is also conducted outside these major centers, some involving multiuniversity collaboration. These research centers complement the following seven academic departments: Biomedical Engineering; Chemical and Biological Engineering; Civil and Environmental Engineering; Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems; Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering; Materials Science and Engineering; and Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering.

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)
Electric Power Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Engineering Physics (G)
Engineering Science (G)
Environmental Engineering
Industrial and Management Engineering
Materials Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Mechanics (G)
Nuclear Engineering

Systems Engineering and Technology Management
Transportation Engineering (G)


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

Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear 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 nonengineering 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 deveolops 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 the Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) 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.

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 Career Development Center.

Study Abroad/Exchange Programs
Rensselaer’s School of Engineering is embarking on a new program, REACH (Rensselaer Engineering Education Across Cultural Horizons), that will offer the opportunity for all qualified Engineering undergraduates, beginning with the Class of 2010, to participate in an international academic experience abroad. It is intended that this exchange program will allow students to spend one semester, preferably in the third year of undergraduate studies, studying at an engineering school outside of the United States. 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. Twenty-five percent of the Class of 2010 will be admitted to this option, 50% of the Class of 2012, 75 percent of the Class of 2014, and all juniors in the Class of 2016 and thereafter.

At the present time, Rensselaer’s School of Engineering 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 E3) 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.

Application involves completing forms regarding required courses or desired electives. The Institute for International Education, which administers this program, matches the student to a participating university based on that student’s educational discipline requirements, cultural experience, and language background. The student continues to pay tuition at the home institution (Rensselaer) and continues to be covered by financial aid mechanisms, insurance, etc. However, the student pays room and board to the host institution. Consequently, except for travel expenses, students participating in this program should incur no additional costs.

Global E3 offers students the chance to study and learn in the native language of the host country. Such opportunities, for example, are available in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Austria. Additional opportunities allow students to pursue foreign study opportunities at universities where the courses are presented and taught in English. These include the Technical University of Denmark, Budapest University of Hungary, and universities in the United Kingdom, Finland, Korea, Singapore, and Japan, among others. 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 30 U.S. universities and over 75 universities in the rest of the world participate in the Global E3 program. Included among these nations are: Australia, China, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. People interested in both programs should contact Professor Lester A. Gerhardt, Director of International Programs for the School of Engineering, at (518) 276-6203 or via e-mail at gerhal@rpi.edu, or Alexandra Li, Senior Program Administrator, at lix14@rpi.edu.  The Global E3 Web site can be found at http://www.iie.org/pgms/global-e3, while the REACH web site is http://reach.rpi.edu.

Detailed information regarding the launch of our new and expanded REACH international program will be forthcoming. Additional opportunities designed for the Rensselaer population in general are also available. Information on these opportunities can be found in the Educational Programs and Resources section of this catalog.

Overview of Graduate Programs

The School of Engineering offers four graduate degrees through which students may achieve these 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.

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.

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 below, 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.

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.

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.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Schools & Departments