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What is Engineering Mechanics?

Mechanics is the study of forces that act on bodies and the resultant motion that those bodies experience. With roots in physics and mathematics, Engineering Mechanics is the basis of all the mechanical sciences: civil engineering, materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering and aeronautical and aerospace engineering. Engineering Mechanics provides the "building blocks" of statics, dynamics, strength of materials, and fluid dynamics. Engineering mechanics is the the discipline devoted to the solution of mechanics problems through the integrated application of mathematical, scientific, and engineering principles. Special emphasis is placed on the physical principles underlying modern engineering design.

Engineering Mechanics students are also encouraged to engage in undergraduate research with a faculty member. As a result, Engineering Mechanics students are prepared for careers at the forefront of a wide variety of fields, including the aerospace, electronics, automotive, manufacturing, software, and computer industries. The curriculum also provides excellent preparation for graduate school in many different engineering disciplines.

What's the Difference betweeen Engineering Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering?

Although the names of the two degree programs sound alike, Engineering Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering are distinct programs with important differences in outlook, philosophy, and content. These differences are most apparent in the junior and senior years as the EM major delves deeper into the field of mechanics and takes more rigorous math courses than the ME major.

Required courses in the EM curriculum, such as TAM 412, TAM 445 and TAM 470, provide a foundation in Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics, continuum mechanics, and computational mechanics. The EM secondary field options, which stress different branches of the science of mechanics rather than application areas, also require 400-level courses. These advanced courses, required for EM undergraduates, are frequently taken by graduate students from several different disciplines. Many EM undergraduates participate in research, and some are offered teaching assistant positions for introductory courses.

On balance, the EM graduate is an engineering scientist, well equipped for further study in graduate school, or for research-oriented jobs in industry. He or she will have a thorough education in applied mathematics, with emphasis on the techniques needed to solve mechanical problems. The EM program emphasizes analytical skills, scientific breadth, and research preparedness.

Secondary Field Options in Engineering Mechanics

Each student, in consultation with a faculty adviser, selects a secondary field option in which further specialization in mechanics is pursued. Each secondary field consists of 12 hours of course work in technical courses in mechanics and closely related subjects. Students may also fashion an individualized secondary field option with approval of the student's adviser and the department's Director of the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research, Petros Sofronis; the only requirements are that the courses be related to mechanics, form a coherent group, include at least one engineering course, and total at least 12 hours..

Careers in Engineering Mechanics

The EM program prepares students to solve challenging, technical problems in aerospace, electronics, automotive, manufacturing, software, computer, communication, and research. About half our graduates continue their education in graduate school, and about half take positions in industry. Regardless of their career choice, Engineering Mechanics graduates find that their training has prepared them for "constant intellectual stimulation and challenge," according to alumnus Henry Petroski, author of several popular books on engineering.

"When I interviewed with Ford," says alumna Michelle Duesterhaus, "the recruiter said of my course work, 'That's impressive—that's more than we would expect of a bachelor's candidate." Our graduates who continue into graduate school likewise find themselves well-prepared for graduate work in a wide range of studies—from medicine to materials science.

Advanced study and research

EM graduates have won prestigious awards and fellowships, such as National Science Foundation graduate fellowships and Fulbright scholarships, which support their graduate studies. Graduates pursue advanced degrees in mechanics, mechanical engineerng, aeronautical engineering, civil engineering, and physics. Recent students have continued their graduate studies at many prestigious universities, including:

  • Brown University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Cambridge University
  • Northwestern University
  • Purdue University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Stanford University
  • University of California at Berkeley
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Massachusetts
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Texas at Austin

Major industries and companies

EM graduates work for some of the largest and best-known companies, as well as many not so well known and start-up firms. These are a few of the companies at which EM graduates of the last five years now work:

  • Allied Signal
  • Accenture
  • Argonne National Labs
  • Automotive Design Engineering
  • Boeing
  • Caterpillar
  • Cummins Engine Company
  • Exelon Nuclear
  • Ford
  • General Electric
  • Honeywell
  • Hughes Aircraft
  • Kajima Construction Services, Inc.
  • Morton Metalcraft Company
  • Motorola
  • Packer Engineering
  • Pratt & Whitney Aircraft
  • Progressive Engineering Inc.
  • Rubbermaid
  • Sundstrand
  • Trek Bicycle USA
  • Underwriters Laboratories