Mechanical engineering is one of the largest, broadest, and oldest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers use the principles of energy, materials, and mechanics to design, analyze, optimize and manufacture machines and devices of all types and scales. They create the processes and systems that drive technology and industry. Aerospace engineering is a highly specialized, yet widely diverse field. Aerospace engineers develop innovations and technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and space exploration. Our combined graduate program offers the degrees of Master of Engineering (ME), Master of Science (MS), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Both the MS and PhD are research degrees requiring independent research as reported in a final thesis/defense, while the ME degree is a course-based degree with no research requirement.
The faculty of the department strives to offer graduate courses that will challenge the students’ capabilities, inform them of cutting-edge innovations, and develop in them an appreciation of the deep beauty and history of our discipline. Toward these ends, the curriculum has three goals: 1) to ensure that all graduates possess a broad knowledge of the fundamentals that underlie Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; 2) to ensure that all graduates have a deep knowledge within one of the department’s three primary disciplines; and 3) to provide sufficient flexibility within our program for interdisciplinary students, acknowledging the great diversity within MAE and its emerging areas. Graduate students choose a field of study from one of the following three disciplines: 1) solid mechanics, 2) dynamical systems & control, 3) thermofluids. The particular focus areas range in scales from macro to micro and nano, and in scope from highly theoretical to quite applied, and utilize state-of-the-art analytical, computational, and experimental tools. To ensure depth, students in the MS and PhD program are required to take three core courses from the selected discipline chosen. To ensure breadth, students must take courses from disciplines outside their field of study (one for MS and two for PhD). Students must also take an engineering analysis course from an approved list covering a broad array of analytical and computational techniques. These requirements do not apply to Masters of Engineering students.
While the department offers a range of courses covering the three general tracks, Solid Mechanics, Dynamical Systems and Control, and Thermofluids, much flexibility exists for multi-disciplinary research allowing a significant number of courses to be taken outside of MAE. The curriculum is designed to accommodate non-traditional students with undergraduate degrees in other scientific or engineering fields. It is expected that all applicants will have completed a calculus-based physics course and college mathematics through differential equations.
Financial assistance in the form of graduate research assistantships, graduate teaching assistantships, and fellowships is provided to almost all qualified full-time MS and PhD graduate students conducting research. In addition, many students within the department receive supplemental fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, as well as several internal fellowships handled through the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (The ME degree is a self-funded degree program).
Research in the solid mechanics area includes studies in: collision/injury mechanics, complex nonlinear simulation restraint optimization, morphing structures, polymer electromechanical devices (PEMs), mechanics of soft materials, neuromuscular biomechanics, movement disorders, musculoskeletal modeling and simulation. Research in dynamical systems and control covers a wide range of problems of practical interest including vibration control, rotor dynamics, magnetic bearings, mechatronics, fluid control, and the use of periodicity to enhance the achievable performance of controlled systems. Research in thermofluids includes topics from micro-scale and non-Fourier heat transfer, combustion (including supersonic), reduced-order chemical kinetics, thermoacoustics, aerogels, low-speed unsteady aerodynamic flows, atmospheric re-entry flows, supersonic mixing, flows in liquid centrifuges, flow in centrifugal pumps, turbomachinery flows, hydrodynamic stability, multi free-surface flows, non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, flow/structure interactions, and free and forced convection.
The department’s mechanical and aerospace research facilities include a rotating machinery and controls laboratory; several subsonic wind tunnel laboratories; a supersonic combustion laboratory; a supersonic wind tunnel laboratory; the center for applied biomechanics; the bio-inspired engineering and research lab, the aerospace research lab; a nano-scale mechanics and materials characterization laboratory; a bio thermofluids laboratory; a nano-scale energy transfer laboratory; a control systems laboratory; and an aerogel laboratory. Several of these laboratories are unique among all universities in the world.