UT Dallas to Offer Mechanical Engineering Degrees

Curriculum Will Specifically Address the Needs of the 21st-Century Engineer

April 25, 2008

The University of Texas at Dallas has received state approval to add a department of mechanical engineering and begin offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field.

The new degree offerings are expected to significantly bolster enrollment at the university’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, which hopes to have 600 mechanical engineering students within five years, increasing enrollment in the engineering school to more than 3,200.  The program starts this fall, and addresses the University’s Strategic Imperatives One: Build Faculty Size, and Two: Add 5,000 more students. 

“I’m very pleased to see the Jonsson School fulfilling its potential as a contributor to UT Dallas’ move toward Tier One,” President David E. Daniel said.  “This is an area of great opportunity for research, discovery and contribution to our region’s success.”

The Jonsson School is well on its way to achieving the scale necessary to join the nation’s top engineering schools, according to Cy Cantrell, associate dean of academic affairs at the Jonsson School.

“Our departments of electrical engineering and computer science are quite strong, yet none of the nation’s top engineering schools have only two academic departments,” he said. “But with four departments – plus plans under way for a department of bioengineering – we’ll be able to offer the array of degrees and perform the scope of research necessary to compete head-to-head with the best engineering schools in the country.”

The growth in academic departments is especially important for interdisciplinary research, he added. Collaboration between mechanical engineers and electrical engineers is particularly promising, having already produced advances in areas such as micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS, which integrate mechanical elements and electronics at a microscopic scale.

Robotics, another fast-growing field, also demands collaboration between mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, as well as computer scientists.

“Starting this department from the ground up means we’ll be able to immediately tailor our curriculum to the needs of the modern mechanical engineer,” added Andy Blanchard, senior associate dean of operations and finance at the Jonsson School. “We’ll be teaching micro-thermodynamics, micro-fluidics and other knowledge and skills that will be essential for the 21st-century mechanical engineer.”

The new department directly responds to a 2004 report to the UT System Board of Regents recommending UT Dallas add mechanical engineering to its curriculum. Local business leaders from Texas Instruments, Lennox Industries and Raytheon have also expressed support for the new department.

Mechanical engineering involves the analysis, design, manufacturing and maintenance of a wide array of mechanical and thermal systems, including motor vehicles, aircraft, heating and air conditioning systems, power generation, heat transfer, watercraft, manufacturing plants, industrial equipment, medical devices and a rapidly growing amount of nanotechnology.

Mechanical engineers are the second-largest category of engineers working in the U.S., just behind civil engineers. The combined fields of engineering now covered by the Jonsson School’s academic programs represent more than 40 percent of engineering employment in the U.S.

In July, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved a request to establish the department and grant bachelor’s and master’s degrees. This September, UT Dallas’ Jonsson School will also formally launch a department of materials science and engineering, which the board approved last year.


Media contacts: David Moore, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4183, david.moore1@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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The 21st-century mechanical engineer will often work on nanoscale technology, such as this electro-thermally actuated polymer micro-gripper. Designed for live cell manipulation, the technology is being developed by J.B. Lee, an associate professor of electrical engineering, and members of his MicroNano Devices and Systems Laboratory.

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