The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


Enrollment in Ph.D. program surpasses early projections

In its first year recruiting students, The UT SimCenter at Chattanooga has enrolled 15 students in its innovative cross-disciplinary Ph.D. program in Computational Engineering.

The new Ph.D. program offers a unique educational environment because students participate as junior team members of the SimCenter’s large multidisciplinary research team working on complex and real-world computational engineering problems.

The SimCenter website has generated multiple student inquiries, and there have been a number of referrals from faculty and students at UTC and other universities.

“We have done almost no recruiting except through the website. We think the high demand reflects the innovative nature of the cross-disciplinary program, which is highly focused on real-world computational engineering problems, offers research interactions with a large research team, and is open to majors in all engineering disciplines, computer science, mathematics, and the physical sciences. Being located in Chattanooga also helps us to attract students,” said Dr. Roger Briley, Computational Engineering Program.

The Ph.D. students received their master’s degrees from UTC, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, UTSI, UT Knoxville, Louisiana Tech, and Kettering. Brian Lambert, who came from MSU, will defend his dissertation this semester to become the first Ph.D. graduate. Besides the Ph.D. students, there are six graduate students and four undergraduate research assistants.

The SimCenter has a number of active projects and others in the planning stage, according to Briley.

“One project uses simulation to help reduce the aerodynamic drag of heavy tractor-trailer trucks at highway speeds, in support of the national energy conservation program,” Briley said. “Another project is using computational simulations for compressors in turbomachinery to support efforts at improving helicopter evasive maneuvering capabilities, to evaluate advanced design concepts using bio-inspired propulsion, and to explore propulsion for unmanned communications platforms. Other projects address advanced design concepts for submarines, environmental wind flows and climate simulations, and polymer-induced drag reduction for Navy ships.

With the current number of SimCenter faculty, Briley says enrollment could grow. However, the availability of research opportunities and financial support for students will play a critical role.

“Over time, we believe our program will play a leadership role in educating students with the multidisciplinary and teamwork skills needed to solve complex practical engineering analysis and design problems using computational modeling, simulation and design software,” Briley said. “We also believe that this trend toward computational engineering will gradually transform the practice of engineering by supplementing experiment and testing to produce competitive advantages in high-technology products and systems. We think that UTC is an ideal environment in which to pursue these goals,” Briley said.