Mechanical, nuclear engineering programs to become independent departments

Erin Cassidy Hendrick
November 14, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On the advisement of the Faculty Senate Council, Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nicolas P. Jones on Nov. 13 approved the separation of the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering into two independent departments, effective July 1, 2019.

Justin Schwartz, the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering, said separating the programs will allow each to grow, as well as focus on their individual strengths.

“Penn State’s mechanical engineering program has had a very long and successful history. It’s one the country’s largest programs and is highly respected in national rankings. And when you look at nuclear engineering at Penn State, you have one of the few university programs remaining in the country that continues to operate a nuclear research reactor,” Schwartz said. “Allowing these two proud and storied programs to become independent departments will give each the opportunity to chart its own course and flourish.”

Mechanical and Nuclear departments separate

Students from both disciplines stand to benefit from distinct, independent departments.

IMAGE: Penn State

Mechanical engineering was introduced at Penn State in 1881 and nuclear engineering was formed in 1955. They operated as independent departments until they merged in 1997, due to declining enrollment in the nuclear engineering program and across the field.

“I want to thank Dr. Karen Thole, distinguished professor and head of mechanical and nuclear engineering, for her leadership over the past decade,” Schwartz said. “It is by virtue of her efforts and remarkable success that the College of Engineering is now in a position to launch two successful departments.”

Schwartz said Thole will continue to lead the new Department of Mechanical Engineering. A national search will be conducted for the department head in nuclear engineering. 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 14, 2018