Engineering student Paige Wilber stress-tested a bridges she created with classmates by adding weight to the structure until it failed.
Engineering student Paige Wilber stress-tests a bridge she built with classmates by adding weight to the structure until it failed. 

Several years ago, a research team at the Biothermal Lab at UC Berkeley was advancing a technique that used electrical pulses to kill cancerous cells without harming healthy tissue. The method could be a minimally invasive alternative to chemotherapy. 

Mary Phillips, then a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at Berkeley, was on that team. 

"When you say you're a mechanical engineer, people think of designing cars or making an airplane component. There are so many applications that are less obvious," said Phillips, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Quinnipiac and expert in thermal analysis and tissue engineering. "The biomedical field is a huge area for engineers." 

Quinnipiac has developed programs in four of the fastest growing fields: civil, industrial, mechanical and software engineering.

"Engineering graduates have really good job prospects given the number and diversity of engineering jobs out there," said Justin Kile, associate dean of engineering. The U.S. will need 250,000 new engineers through 2023, a growth of about 11 percent, according to Kelly Services Engineering Employment Outlook. 

The University welcomed its first class of engineering students in Fall 2012 and will have its first graduates in May 2016. Now part of the School of Business and Engineering, plans are in place to establish a separate school in 2016 and gain full accreditation the following year, explained Kile. 

Engineers have been key contributors to most groundbreaking innovations. Several years ago, the National Academy of Engineering released "The 14 Grand Challenges for Engineers in the 21st Century." The list includes making solar energy economical, providing energy from fusion, increasing access to clean water, advancing health informatics and improving cyber security, to name a few. Engineers view these challenges as opportunities to make positive change. 

"Engineers solve the world's problems, whether it's designing new mechanisms or software, building newer, safer buildings or creating new technology for military defense," said Matt Sanchez, a sophomore civil engineering major. "And that's cool." 

Many of the most impressive engineering achievements are so integrated into everyday life that they are taken for granted. That is especially true for industrial engineers who look at the interconnection of people, process and products and design ways to create more efficiency. "If an industrial engineer does his or her job really well, you don't know what happened, you just know things are better," Kile said. 

Recent high-profile cyber attacks on Target, Sony Pictures Entertainment and President Barack Obama's emails illustrate the dire need for people with the expertise to protect electronic data-including software engineers. They also are in demand in education, particularly to develop teaching and learning applications on different types of hardware, from tablets to cell phones. 

Students get a careful balance of theoretical work with hands-on application in class projects, research opportunities and required internships. Civil engineering students, for example, have interned for North Haven's town engineer and the director of public works. 

Gabriela Gualpa, a junior industrial engineering student, was excited to be a consultant for MidState Medical Center in Meriden, Connecticut, as part of a class project. Her team of classmates helped make the hospital's surgical supply area more efficient. Now she is part of a collaborative health care research project, working with engineering and physical therapy professors. 

"It's incredibly exciting. Especially given what we are learning, there's just so much we can do," said Gualpa. "We're told to go for it." 

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of the Quinnipiac Magazine. Read the full version of this story

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