College of Engineering establishes new graduate program in engineering design

June 09, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's College of Engineering has a new engineering design graduate program within its School of Engineering Design, Technology and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP).

The program will enable students from all engineering backgrounds to attain a deeper understanding of design methods. This experience will prepare them for design-focused careers in industry, government labs and academia.

Amr Elnashai, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering, said, "With the proliferation of engineering degree programs around the country, it is increasingly important for Penn State to differentiate its students and emphasize their unique training, especially at the graduate level. It is also critically important for us to rapidly adapt to the requirements of top employers. The new graduate program in engineering design addresses all of these requirements."

Beginning this fall, students can earn a master of science degree in engineering design. In the fall of 2015, the program will include a master of engineering degree in engineering design.

The master of science degree is research oriented and students are required to submit a thesis.

The master of engineering is a nonthesis professional degree that provides training for advanced professional practice and can be completed in one year. Students must submit a scholarly report based on an independent studies course or a domestic or international internship experience.

Both degree programs require students to prepare an engineering design portfolio.

Students will choose from one of three focus areas: engineering product design, systems design or data-driven design.

Engineering product design addresses the identification of consumer preferences and requirements, the evaluation of existing products and product families and the development of innovative designs.

Systems design involves defining and developing a variety of systems that satisfy user and mission requirements.

Data-driven design focuses on using data to motivate and inform design decisions and assess current product performance.

Matt Parkinson, director of the engineering design program, explained, "These focus areas were selected based on industry need and faculty specialties. They align well with the areas of interest to the National Science Foundation's Engineering and Systems Design program."

He noted that the overall program provides an opportunity for engineers to learn different skills as they see a bigger picture and apply existing skills in new ways.

Sven Bilén, head of SEDTAPP, said the implementation of the new graduate program comes at a critical time. "Engineering design has coalesced into a field distinct from other engineering disciplines, having its own body of knowledge and abstracted practices that can be applied across disciplines. There is now a vibrant engineering design community consisting of a diverse group of members from academia and industry, domestic and international. Also, a growing number of well-regarded journals, funding programs, organizations and conferences focus primarily on engineering design."

He noted one highlight of the program is the two-semester studio sequence. "Students get to apply their engineering background and what they are learning in this program to real, client-driven projects. They will be poised to address a broad range of challenges."

Elnashai agreed, "Graduates from the new degree program will have honed their integration and leadership skills to be at the core of progress in their companies as soon as they land there. Branding our graduates as product designers, entrepreneurs and corporate design and innovation leaders will not only single Penn State engineering out as the leader in engineering design education, but will also fill a well-identified void in industry."

Bilén pointed out that there is a strong push in the engineering profession to focus on problem framing and problem discovery, which are critical to the overall problem-solving process. "SEDTAPP is uniquely positioned to accomplish this by leveraging the wide range of design expertise that we have within our School and across colleges at Penn State and other universities, through established and future collaborations among students and faculty."

He added, "The world community has demonstrated a need for engineers with technical proficiency and depth, rounded out by breadth in engineering design. This program will help meet that need."

Last Updated June 09, 2014