The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


First UTC Ph.D. Program Moves Closer to Implementation

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga moved one step closer today toward establishing a doctorate in computational engineering, the first Ph.D. program for the campus. Unanimous approval for the program has come from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC).

“This is another significant step for the doctorate in computational engineering,” according to Chancellor Bill Stacy. “With great anticipation we await final approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Our students will have the opportunity to study in a world-class scientific community from their freshman years through their doctoral research,” Stacy said.

The motion was made by THEC Commissioner June Scobee-Rodgers of Chattanooga and seconded by Tennessee Secretary of State Riley Darnell.

In October 2003, UTC received approval to move forward with what some outside evaluators have called "the most advanced computational modeling and simulation center in the nation."

The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees unanimously passed a proposal for UTC to begin offering a doctorate in computational engineering. The new doctorate will draw upon the resources of the UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science, the UTC Graduate School in Computational Engineering, and the UTC SimCenter.

In a recent evaluation of the proposed doctorate conducted for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Dr. L.S. Fletcher, a NASA mechanical engineer on the faculty of Texas A&M University, wrote that the UTC SimCenter "is the most advanced computational modeling and simulation center in the nation, with outstanding teaching and research faculty."

Only a handful of computational engineering programs exist in the world, and Fletcher said that with the establishment of the new program, UTC "will be leading the development of a new doctoral program that other institutions will emulate."

The program will be housed in a new $40 million Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science building on the UTC campus. The UTC SimCenter is located in the campus's first dedicated research facility renovated this fall through support from the University of Chattanooga Foundation.

The field of computational engineering encompasses practical engineering analysis and design problems that require supercomputer simulations. It is multidisciplinary employing engineering, mathematics, and computer science. Examples of its application include hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, propulsion, heat transfer, and structure and it is used to support activities of government agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency and their industrial partners.

The UTC SimCenter conducts research with a high-speed connection to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Candidates in the Ph.D. program will work with SimCenter faculty as they explore research projects. Since its establishment, the SimCenter has received more than $2.25 million in federal research support, including grants for participation in the federal government’s FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies Program, the Climate Control Initiative, and research in new stationary fuel cell technologies.

A distinguished member of the SimCenter faculty is Dr. Harry McDonald, who was named to the UTC Chair of Excellence in 21st Century Engineering. Prior to his arrival, he was Director of NASA Ames Research Center, where he established the NASA Center for Excellence in Information Technology. Dr. McDonald is considered the world’s leading expert on space shuttle safety and was recently inducted into the Royal Academy of Engineering.

“We will be able to attract the best and brightest of the young engineering students from around the nation and provide them with an outstanding engineering education right here in Chattanooga instead of them having to go to M.I.T. or CalTech,” said Dr. McDonald. “Computational engineering is fast developing into the solution methodology of choice for problems that arise in high technology industries. When these students graduate, they will be a fantastic resource for any community and will be the intellectual capital for the future.”