Over the past few years, the number of undergraduates concentrators in engineering has seen a significant increase, largely due to the University’s concerted efforts to increase visibility and outreach for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
In the 2000-2001 academic year, 79 students obtained either a Bachelor’s or a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Sciences. The number has grown to 150 students for the current academic year.
In an e-mailed statement, Dean of SEAS Cherry A. Murray ascribed the upward growth to the efforts of her predecessor Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti, who “successfully transitioned the former Division into a School.”
Murray also cited the collaboration with other departments and the Unviersity’s role in supporting SEAS as integral factors that bolstered a stronger sense of community.
In particular, Murray pointed out the school’s enhanced communications efforts in stimulating this growth, such as its new Web site, print materials available for current and prospective students, and the use of social networking sites to spread the word.
Venky said that the rising interest in engineering has been fairly steady over the past decade, though the trend has seen fluctuations in light of the economy.
Some current students credit the field’s practicality and versatility in making engineering an attractive concentration choice.
“It seemed like a good idea because it provided a good academic background to do a lot of things after graduation,” said Matthew J. O’Brien ’10. “When I came to college I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and Engineering seemed like something that ruled out very little.”
But such seemingly unstoppable growth is not without its potential drawbacks, said Venky, who cited the issue of having the requisite facilities to support such an increase in interest.
“There are always issues of having enough lab facilities for teaching,” Venky said. “Ultimately we will need greater physical space, and I see that as the greatest limitation here.”
Venky dismissed the notion that an increased number of engineering concentrators would worsen the faculty-student ratio, and said that SEAS would either add more faculty and more space—or stop the growth entirely.
With the creation of distinct engineering concentrations such as the new Biomedical Engineering concentration, Venky said he predicted more Engineering concentrators as interest rises.
He said this was particularly true of bioengineering and computer science-related areas such as information technology and nanotechnology, which are both growing fields.
Many students view this general trend in a positive light, saying that the engineering program can only be helped by further expansion as it creates more opportunities for students.
“Given where the program is right now, we can definitely take more engineers and still retain the same positives,” said Colin H. Santangelo ’11.