Loyola’s Leading Engineering Program Readies
When the 2012 U.S. News and World Report “Best College” rankings came out earlier this fall, readers discovered a new entrant among the top 50 undergraduate programs in engineering—Loyola University Maryland.
Based on peer assessments, the ranking reflects what Loyola engineering students and faculty have known for a long time—that the engineering programs at Loyola offer a rare, hands-on experience students would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, particularly at the large universities most often associated with top-notch engineering programs.
“There are a few key things that really distinguish our programs,” says Robert Bailey, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of engineering. “One is that our students continue to interact with others in different engineering disciplines as they move through the program, and take several classes where all the concentrations take the same course. Our senior design course, for example, puts all the concentrations together in teams to work on projects. This lets them experience something a lot closer to what they’ll encounter in the ‘real world,’ and larger programs just aren’t able to do that.”
Loyola’s undergraduate engineering students also have an opportunity to participate in faculty research in ways typically reserved for graduate students.
“Loyola’s engineering faculty are committed to their teaching, but still want to contribute to the scholarship in their disciplines,” says Bailey. “We need help to do that. Normally, that help would come from graduate students, but at Loyola, our undergraduates fill those roles both during the academic year and the summertime. Often, students will ask to work with a professor to explore something not covered in their classes. For instance, I have a lot of students who approach me about working on computational fluid dynamics.”
About 20 students major in engineering each year, spread among Loyola’s four engineering concentrations: computer, electrical, materials, and mechanical. The majority secure full-time employment prior to or just following graduation.
“Prior to 2008, perhaps about 15 percent of each graduating class went directly to grad school,” says Bailey. “With the economy, that percentage is now about 20-25 percent. But we still expect the majority of our students to go into industry. In some ways engineering is more like business than a science like physics or chemistry. Our engineering students are ready to enter the workforce right away as practicing engineers—but a large percentage go back to graduate school in a few years with their companies footing the bill.”
Recent Loyola engineering graduates have secured full-time jobs with organizations such as Constellation Energy, Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Vanguard Group, niche defense contractors, and Leach Wallace Associates, a construction firm specializing in medical facilities.
Many of these positions stemmed from internships they had through Loyola. Laura Borowski, ’12, a mechanical engineering student from Hillsdale, N.J., already has a job waiting for her at GE Aviation’s Edison Engineering Development program in Cincinnati, Ohio, a three-year leadership development program where she will rotate through three different roles and earn a master’s degree from one of three area universities. The opportunity emerged after Borowski spent the summers after her sophomore and junior years completing internships at GE Aviation’s Middle River Aircraft division near Baltimore.
While the internships were valuable, the independent research Borowski pursued as part of Loyola’s Hauber Fellowship program might have given her an even greater edge. The Hauber program allows undergraduates to spend 10 weeks each summer working on an independent project under the guidance of Loyola faculty. Borowski completed her fellowship the summer after her first year—a rare accomplishment. She studied fluid motion in soap films—a technology used, among other things, to explore air flow patterns over aircraft wings—with Bailey and Mary Lowe, Ph.D., professor of physics. She later presented her findings at a meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education in Philadelphia, an unusual feat for an undergraduate. The Hauber experience also helped her gain a spot on the design team for Monash Motorsports, the Formula SAE racing team at the university where she studied in Australia during the spring of her junior year.
“The Hauber program was one of the reasons I came to Loyola,” says Borowski. “The way I learn is by asking questions and that’s hard to do with 250 students in a lecture hall. Then, on my project, I was the one making decisions. I was the one responsible. It made a difference during my job interview. When they asked how I dealt with a time challenge, or how I responded when things didn’t go my way, I had that experience to draw on. When the summer was over, I didn’t want to stop, so I continued it as an independent study and sixth class that fall. I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself, and through the Hauber, I felt like I really was striving for the magis.”