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Is Computational Engineering Right for Me?

Computational Engineering is a graduate degree program that prepares graduates to solve complex practical engineering and science problems using computer simulations based on mathematical models of physical phenomena. This requires background and/or preparation in three sub-specialties of engineering, mathematics, and computing:

  • Engineering Analysis and Problem Solving
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Scientific Computing

There is, perhaps, a useful analogy between Computational Engineering and what might be called “Experimental Engineering”, in which physical experiments and testing, measuring devices, and computerized data reduction would be used to study and solve the same complex practical engineering and science problems.

The Computational Engineering program is multidisciplinary and open to undergraduate majors in engineering, mathematics and the natural sciences. Although it is unlikely that any of these majors would provide an ideal background for Computational Engineering, most successful students will have the requisite interest in using computers to solve practical problems and will have previous coursework or experience related to two of the three areas above. Examples of relevant coursework are given below.

  • Engineering – Courses in basic engineering, problem solving, and engineering sciences (such as physics, chemistry, statics, dynamics, solid/fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, energy, materials, electromagnetics, chemical processes). Courses in engineering analysis and design are also helpful.
  • Mathematics – Courses in multivariable calculus, differential/difference equations, and linear algebra and matrices. Courses in numerical analysis, complex variables, and partial differential equations are also helpful.
  • Computing – Courses in fundamentals of computing, scientific programming (C,C++,Fortran), Unix/Linux OS, data structures, software design/development, and software engineering. Courses in parallel computing software and hardware are also helpful.

Engineering majors will have a strong background in the mathematics and engineering categories but may not have any background in computer programming other than basic computer literacy.

Science and Mathematics majors (i.e., physics, chemistry, mathematics) will have a strong background in mathematics, science, and possibly computer programming, but may not have any background in engineering problem solving other than through electives.

Computer Science majors will have a strong background in computer programming and computer systems, and may have background in mathematics, but probably have little background in engineering problem solving other than through electives.

All majors should have a strong interest in scientific computing for engineering problem solving.