The Department of Mechanical Engineering offers two undergraduate degrees. The BA with a Major in Mechanical Engineering is a flexible program for students looking to pursue areas of interest outside of engineering. The BS in Mechanical Engineering prepares students for the professional practice of engineering or a career in academia.
- Why should I study Mechanical Engineering?
Mechanical engineering is one of the most broadly applicable engineering majors. You can find a job in a wide range of fields (as outlined below). More importantly though, mechanical engineering helps you to understand how the world works – how cars come together, airplanes fly, electricity is generated, pollution spreads in a stream or the sky, robots move, rockets blast off, etc.
- What do students do when they graduate with a Mechanical Engineering degree?
Mechanical engineering graduates typically work in fields such as renewable and traditional energy, the automotive industry, aerospace/aeronautics, data analytics, consulting, and manufacturing. Numerous graduates from MECH at Rice have also gone on to graduate school to advance in their fields or continue in academia, have started their own companies (including a major independent brewery and a chain of dine-in cinemas), and have worked in fields as diverse as designing stage tech on Broadway and algorithms for major Silicon Valley firms.
- If I am considering this major, what classes do I have to take this year?
Without any AP credit, you will take classes in Math, Chemistry, Physics, and Computational and Applied Math (CAAM). With AP credit, you could consider starting on some of the basic courses in MECH, such as statics, dynamics, and thermodynamics, or taking upper-level MATH or CAAM classes.
- If I have AP credit, should I use it or are there classes I should consider retaking anyway?
You can use your AP credit for any of the beginning classes in Math, Chemistry, and Physics, with the caveat given in the answer to the next question.
- How should I decide whether or not to use my AP credit?
If you feel confident in the rigor and depth of your AP Math and Physics classes, then taking the AP credit will be fine. If you have doubts about either, the first year of MECH classes relies heavily on a thorough understanding of Physics and all MECH classes use the principles of Calculus to quantify the rules that govern and explain the physical world.
- Can I study abroad? If so, when is the best time?
You can absolutely study abroad as a MECH. The main complications in doing so are completing the lab classes, and being present for your entire final year for senior design. The second semester of junior year, and then the second semester of sophomore year, would be the best time.
- What kind of research opportunities are available to your students?
Many faculty members in the department have research opportunities available in the construction of physical devices (in, say, controls or tribology or dynamics, etc.) or in programming simulations (in the fields of energy, aerospace, fluids, etc.). Additionally, participating in research opportunities in other departments (such as CEVE or BIOE) can help you to expand your understanding of the impact of MECH on a range of disciplines.
- What extracurricular activities or projects do students in your program normally participate in?
MECH students participate in a range of extracurricular activities, such as Eclipse (the rocket club), Design/Build/Fly, the solar car, OEDK student leaders, RCEL, OwlSpark, etc. MECH students are also leaders in student government throughout the university and in their colleges, with multiple MECHs serving as college presidents, CJs, Head PAAs, etc.
- What do classes in Mechanical Engineering normally look like?
In non-COVID times, we work to keep the majority of our core classes below 49 students (and below 30 if possible), with a few junior-level classes exceeding that cap. Upper-level elective classes tend to have 10-20 students in a class.
- Is the curriculum flexible enough for students to pursue other interests? i.e. Can I complete a minor, take classes outside the major or specialize further within the major?
A few years ago, the MECH department worked to streamline our curriculum so that students would have more flexibility in pursuing other interests, including leadership and entrepreneurship opportunities, minors (such as CAAM or BUSI), and even double-majors (though this requires careful planning, we typically have a few students each year who double-major in English, History, VADA, etc.). For specialization within the major, there are four possible areas with a list of related courses available for students to take in their junior and senior years.
- Are there any other things I should know about Mechanical Engineering?
Mechanical engineering at Rice is full of energetic, ambitious people who want to make the world a better place (usually with technology, but beyond that as well). Faculty and students come together in annual town halls and more frequent informal meetings throughout the year, guided by the MECH Undergraduate Advisory Board, to shape the direction of the department and tackle big-picture questions. As an example, over the summer, a local teacher reached out to MECH to find help in designing low-cost barriers that she could use in her middle-school classroom in the face of in-person instruction in the era of COVID. MECH undergraduate and graduate students leapt into action, and designed and built multiple prototypes to help keep teachers and students safe. This coming year, one additional challenge that we will be facing will be working to integrate elements of diversity, equity, and inclusion more comprehensively into the department and major. MECH at Rice already has many strengths in that area, but there of course remains more to be done. Together though, as with past challenges, we know that we can “MECH it happen.”