Undergraduate Major in Mechanical Engineering
Undergraduate Option Rep
Please visit the Undergraduate Admissions website for on-line applications, downloadable forms, important dates, and complete information about the undergraduate admissions process.
The objective of the undergraduate program in Mechanical Engineering at Caltech is to produce graduates who will attain careers and higher education that ultimately lead to leadership roles in academia, industry and government in areas of rapidly advancing interdisciplinary technology related to fluid, solid, thermal and mechanical systems.
The program prepares students for graduate school and professional practice and inspires them to undertake careers that provide an opportunity to address the pressing technological needs of society. Specifically, the program builds on Caltech's core curriculum to combine individual depth of experience and competence in a particular chosen mechanical engineering specialty with a strong background in the basic and engineering sciences. It maintains a balance between classroom lectures and laboratory and design experience, and emphasizes the problem-formulation and solving skills that are essential to any engineering discipline. The program also strives to develop in each student self-reliance, creativity, leadership, professional ethics, and the capacity for continuing professional and intellectual growth. For interested students, there are opportunities to conduct research with a faculty member.
The outcome of the undergraduate program is to prepare the student to
- Build on a fundamental education in physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology and to apply those principles to the solution of open ended engineering problems;
- Design, analyze, measure, and evaluate fluid, thermal and mechanical systems;
- Work effectively as part of a team;
- Communicate effectively;
- Apply ethical considerations;
- Understand the broader impacts of engineering developments, including societal, cultural and environmental concerns.
Mechanical engineering is the branch of engineering that is generally concerned with understanding forces and motion, and their application to solving problems of interest to society. The field includes aspects of thermodynamics, fluid and solid mechanics, mechanisms, materials, and energy conversion and transfer, and involves the application of physics, mathematics, chemistry, and increasingly, biology and computer science. Importantly, the field also emphasizes the process of formulation, design, optimization, manufacture, and control of new systems and devices.
Technical developments in the last decade have established the importance of interdisciplinary engineering and science, and as a result, new technical disciplines within mechanical engineering have emerged. These new areas build on an understanding of the fundamental behavior of physical systems; however, the focus of this work is at the interfaces between traditional disciplines. Examples of the new disciplines include: micro- and nano-mechanical systems, simulation and synthesis, integrated complex distributed systems, and biological engineering.
Mechanical engineers can be found in many fields including automotive, aerospace, materials processing and development, power production, consumer products, robotics and automation, semiconductor processing, and instrumentation. Mechanical engineering can also be the starting point for careers in bioengineering, environmental and aeronautical engineering, finance, and business management.
The mechanical engineering option is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, 111 Market Place, Suite 1050, Baltimore, MD 21202-4012, (410) 347-7700. At the end of the first year, students who elect the mechanical engineering option are assigned advisers as close to their expressed field of interest as possible, and together they develop programs of study for the next three years.
Attention is called to the fact that any student whose grade point average is less than 1.9 at the end of the academic year is the required courses listed below may be refused permission to continue work in this option.
A student whose interests relate to mechanical engineering but who wishes to pursue a broader course of studies than that allowed by the Mechanical Engineering requirements may elect the Engineering and Applied Science Option.
See the Caltech Catalog for specific course requirements and a typical course schedule. Please view the following pdf files for more information:
- Option Requirements (see pages 339-341)
- Suggested course schedules
- Advanced Engineering Electives
- Advanced Electives Selection Form
- Form for Undergraduate students to add a Minor
Questions regarding the Mechanical Engineering undergraduate program? Please contact Professor Aaron Ames.
The Mechanical Engineering program has received ABET accreditation.
ABET is responsible for assuring educational quality. It is a voluntary, non-governmental process of peer review designed to determine if certain, defined standards and criteria are being met. Accreditation verifies that an institution or program has met the criteria.
ABET accreditation tells students, their parents, and employers that the program has met minimum standards and it has been judged by professionals to provide an adequate preparation for the engineering graduate. It also establishes standards, procedures, and an environment that will encourage the highest quality for engineering technology and that the graduates are aware of public health and safety considerations.
Many state registration and certification boards consider ABET-accredited programs for state licensure and certification. It is also a consideration for admission to many graduate programs.
ABET's new set of criteria for engineering accreditation is termed EC2000. Under this new approach, schools must demonstrate program outcomes and assessments that include the following for a well educated engineer:
- an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering;
- an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data;
- an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs;
- an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams;
- an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems;
- an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility;
- an ability to communicate effectively;
- a broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context;
- a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning;
- a knowledge of contemporary issues;
- an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.
Graduation from an accredited program is an important step to becoming a Registered Professional Engineer.