Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest, largest and broadest engineering disciplines. Aerospace engineering, a newer field by comparison, is highly specialized yet widely diverse. Nonetheless, when mechanical and aerospace engineers approach their research, they often begin with the same questions — “How does this work?” and “How can I make it better?”
Using the principles of energy and mechanics, knowledge of materials and command of modern computational tools, mechanical engineers design, analyze, optimize and manufacture machines and devices of all types — from turbomachinery to microelectronics to orthopaedic devices. Similarly, aerospace engineers develop innovative technologies specific to aviation, defense systems, space exploration and other diverse fields.
Aerospace engineers are involved in such varied and exciting activities as creating the future aircraft, sending a spacecraft to Mars and improving tomorrow’s automobiles. From artificial hearts to jet transportation to nano-engineered devices, mechanical and aerospace engineers have a tremendous impact on our everyday lives — and on the future.
Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees are offered in both Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Aerospace Engineering (AE). The newly revised engineering curricula in the degree programs of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering provide a strong foundation in mathematics, science and also provide excellent exposure to engineering applications. In addition, these programs offer great flexibility for students who want to tailor a program to their specific interests.The undergraduate programs are designed to provide the professional development required for students to gain and achieve significant levels of engineering responsibility. Appropriately, the curricula focus on developing the student’s technological capabilities as well as giving the students the flexibility to achieve their personal goals. For example, the programs allow the students to minor in business, other engineering disciplines or areas of arts and science.The academic programs begin with an emphasis on the knowledge of the basic subjects: mathematics, chemistry and physics. A sequence of science and mathematics courses prepares the students for advanced engineering analysis. Early in their program, students also take courses which introduce engineering concepts, computer-graphics, computational software, and engineering design methodologies.As the basic science courses are being mastered, a sequence of engineering courses develops problem solving abilities in contemporary problem areas.The knowledge and abilities gained in the foundation courses are applied in advanced courses, which require increased maturity in applying analytical skills, problem solving techniques and the use of computer-based computational “tools”. Advanced courses differ depending on the particular curriculum. Required departmental courses assure the development of a sound foundation upon which to build a career. Furthermore, students choose technical electives from departmental courses or from other engineering or science disciplines.
Required laboratory courses provide experience in the use of basic and advanced experimental methods. Applications cover the full range of mechanical and aerospace engineering areas. To ensure that each student has ”hands-on” experience with the latest in test equipment and modern experimental methods, a two-semester lab sequence in the third year builds on basic skills and science background to develop an appreciation for modern measurement techniques in addition to the core requirements of a chemistry lab and two physics labs.In all labs, student groups are small so that all students participate. The structure of the third-year labs is at the forefront of engineering education. Student teams develop hypotheses, design and conduct experiments, and analyze the data to test the hypotheses. This structure is informed by our mission statement where we remain committed to not merely transmitting a set of facts to our students, but to enabling them to “teach themselves new knowledge and ideas to solve problems far beyond the factual boundaries of their education.”
Professional development also requires an appreciation of complex social, legal, ethical, economic, political and international factors which have important impact on the engineering profession. Consideration of professional ethics, product liability, and engineering economic aspects of design are included in the curriculum. Elective courses are selected from offerings in the areas of technology, culture, communications, economics and the humanities. Fourth-year students are required to write a senior thesis to demonstrate their ability to address a specific technical problem of significant scope and sophistication and to communicate the results of this research to an audience of peers. Furthermore, leadership and ability for teamwork are also expected of engineers. Both are gained through experiences of working in student groups which conduct laboratory experiments, develop designs for large projects, prepare reports and make oral presentations.
Students are strongly encouraged to participate in student professional societies and student projects. Student sections of ASME, SAE, ASHRAE, AIAA and the Space Advancement Society are nationally active and have won several awards and competitions.
Program Enrollment and Degree Information
Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Bachelor’s of Science degrees are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.
- Graduates of the Mechanical Engineering program at the University of Virginia have the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will allow them to make tangible contributions, meet new technical challenges, contribute effectively as team members, and be innovators in the analysis, design and implementation of creative solutions to problems with mechanical devices and systems. They communicate effectively and interact responsibly with colleagues, clients, employers and society.
- Graduates of the Aerospace Engineering program at the University of Virginia have the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will allow them to make tangible contributions, meet new technical challenges, contribute effectively as team members, and be innovators in the analysis, design and implementation of creative solutions to problems with aerospace vehicle systems. They communicate effectively and interact responsibly with colleagues, clients, employers and society.
Graduates of MAE can…
Apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
Design and conduct experiments, as well as analyze and interpret data
Design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs
Function on multi-disciplinary teams
Identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems
Understand professional and ethical responsibility
Understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context
Engage in life-long learning
Apply their knowledge of contemporary issues
Use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice