Increasing interest from students, demand for engineers in drone and other aviation technologies drove creation of program; first degrees slated for 2018
Rutgers will soon become the first public university in New Jersey to offer its students a degree in aerospace engineering, a field that increasing numbers of students are pursuing.
While the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has many aerospace engineering experts on its faculty and has offered an aerospace engineering certificate to its mechanical engineering students for decades, students interested in the field have not been able to earn a degree focused on aerospace engineering. With more than 60 engineering students each year pursuing certificates in the field, the faculty knew it had a critical mass of interest to support a full-fledged degree program.
In spite of Rutgers’ history of research and teaching in aerospace engineering, offering a degree in the field involves more than just declaring it.
“We’ve been working with our industry advisory board to define a profile for this degree,” said Cuitino. “It’s not every day you design a new degree. We are building a program with unique features.”
One of those features will be unmanned aircraft systems, often referred to as drones, which have significant growth potential for uses such as pipeline inspection, search-and-rescue, weather monitoring and farming. The School of Engineering recently hired Xiaoli Bai, a new faculty member who is an expert in that field, and has additional hires planned to expand and complement expertise in the area, he noted. Rutgers is also involved in the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, a university consortium conducting research for the Federal Aviation Administration to integrate unmanned aircraft into the nation’s airspace.
“The mechanical engineering degree provides a broad footprint of expertise, which is attractive to many industries,” said Cuitino. “But for those who really would like an aerospace engineering degree, they can now get it here.”
Among the aerospace engineering industries nearby that hire Rutgers graduates are Lockheed Martin in South Jersey, Boeing in Philadelphia and Sikorsky in Connecticut. Many technology companies in the area also provide engineering products and services in the aerospace field and employ Rutgers engineers.
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