Philadelphia campuses to offer multidisciplinary engineering degree

Beginning in fall 2012, the Penn State Abington, Brandywine and Great Valley campuses will jointly offer a bachelor of science degree in general engineering with the multidisciplinary engineering design (MED) option.

The MED degree incorporates advanced coursework in electrical, mechanical and computer engineering, as well as engineering design to produce innovative engineers specialized in systems design and integration.

Interdisciplinary learning and design has been identified by the National Academy of Engineering as an important element of undergraduate engineering education. These skills are often associated with the design of large systems such as those developed in the aerospace, automotive, and biomedical industries and other complex systems that require the knowledge of several engineering disciplines to complete a successful design.

Students can choose to complete the first two years of foundational engineering coursework at either the Brandywine or Abington campus. The second two years of advanced engineering coursework can be completed at the new engineering laboratories at the School of Graduate Professional Studies at the Great Valley campus.

“In addition to rigorous engineering, mathematics and physics coursework, engineering students are strongly encouraged to participate in undergraduate research projects in engineering and robotics,” said Norah Shultz, associate dean at Penn State Abington. "Involvement in the Abington and Brandywine engineering clubs, and taking advantage of regional industry internships and engineering opportunities abroad, will offer a well-rounded and practical educational experience for students in the program."

The MED program develops technical and problem-solving skills, written and oral communication skills and teamwork and leadership skills, all of which culminate in a two-semester senior design engineering project and a compulsory internship in the engineering industry. The MED degree helps Penn State students prepare for exciting careers in product engineering, process engineering, manufacturing, research and development, materials engineering and graduate school.

“The MED program can prepare students to pursue a variety of areas so they can appeal to a variety of companies who might be interested in them,” Paul deGategno, director of academic affairs at Penn State Brandywine, said. “The flexibility and multidisciplinary nature of the program can make the students more employable.”

Bringing the program to the Philadelphia area will allow students a better opportunity to network and build relationships through internships -- both of which can help them find jobs after graduation, he said.

“The idea is to bring together the strength of the three campuses -- Brandywine, Abington and Great Valley -- and to offer a Penn State engineering degree in this region,” deGategno added. “We hope to have partnerships with key corporations, because we have so many in the area, so we can build opportunities for internships and employment for our students.”

James Nemes, director of academic affairs at Penn State Great Valley, noted, “Today’s design problems don’t often fit into a single traditional engineering discipline. To tackle those challenges, we need engineers that can cross those traditional boundaries. This program is aimed at producing engineers with the multidisciplinary background that will be needed even more to take on the design problems that we’ve only started to think about.”