HYBRID PH.D. IS NATION’S FIRST

Career development and professional readiness has always been a key focus of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering. In fact, in 2007, the VCU Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering established a nuclear engineering program in response to the industry’s demand for qualified professionals and a growing national interest in nuclear energy.

In 2012, as a result of the continued need for highly trained nuclear professionals, VCU received state approval to offer a doctoral degree in mechanical and nuclear engineering – the first of its kind in the nation. The advanced degree program prepares students to enter critical fields such as power generation, alternative energy, nuclear medicine and national defense and homeland security.

The new doctoral degree is offered in addition to a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, which includes a nuclear engineering track, and a Master of Science in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering.

“This type of hybrid education allows students to be trained in both disciplines,” said Karla M. Mossi, Ph.D., director of graduate studies, VCU Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. “It’s not easy to create a true interdisciplinary curriculum such as the new doctoral program in mechanical and nuclear engineering, but there is a strong demand for students educated at the intersection of these two important disciplines.”

Mossi and her colleagues introduced two pilot courses and are already rolling out the new degree program. “Our collaborative environment helps foster many academic advancements like this new Ph.D. program. We’re very proud of that,” Mossi said. “The new degree offers a hybrid of our department’s three critical strengths – energy, materials and medicine. It offers an unprecedented approach to prepare engineering students with broad, interdisciplinary training to bridge two complementary fields.”

The mechanical and nuclear engineering department is the largest department in the VCU School of Engineering. Currently enrolling approximately 475 undergraduate students and 70 M.S. and Ph.D. students. The department has 19 full-time faculty members who teach and perform research in cutting-edge areas such as smart materials, drug delivery systems, nanoscale materials, biomedical devices, robotics, energy conversion systems, nuclear engineering, surface science and air filtration.

“It’s not easy to create a true interdisciplinary curriculum such as the new doctoral program in mechanical and nuclear engineering, but there is a strong demand for students educated at the intersection of these two important disciplines.”

 – Karla M. Mossi, Ph.D.