Engineering Program Established

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Fordham University now has an engineering program all its own.

For years, Fordham has offered undergraduate students interested in engineering a 3-2 program, completing their physics coursework at the University in three years and then adding two additional years at Columbia or Case Western Reserve universities. The result is two bachelor’s degrees: one from Fordham in physics and a second from Columbia or Case Western in engineering.

This semester, however, Fordham College at Rose Hill students began enrolling in formal courses leading to a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics.

For Martin Sanzari, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics who spearheaded the development of the program, it is a major step forward for Fordham in meeting the needs of students who intend to pursue engineering careers.

Sanzari, who has three degrees
in engineering and a Ph.D. in physics, said that the idea for an
engineering program came from
the students themselves.

“Now students have the option of a physics degree, the 3-2 program with Columbia or Case Western, or majoring in engineering physics and pursuing graduate study in engineering anywhere in the country,” Sanzari said. “This opens the door to a lot of potential students who want to come to Fordham but who want to be engineers. Many of them ask us, ‘I want to go to graduate school in engineering, can I get there from here?’ My answer is ‘yes you can.’”

Sanzari, who has three degrees in engineering and a Ph.D. in physics, said that the idea for an engineering program came from the students themselves. Over the years, he taught many students who wanted to pursue engineering careers but for whom the 3-2 program was not an option. So he began offering students tutorials on core engineering concepts, such as fluid mechanics and finite analysis.

Before long, Sanzari began considering the idea of moving beyond tutorials and establishing a full-blown program of study. The program was approved by the University a few years ago, and a handful of students have gone through it by taking tutorials taught by Sanzari. This year’s juniors and seniors were the first to enroll in formal courses as part of a structured curriculum.

As structured, the program combines a strong emphasis on physics with a number of engineering courses. Students are required to take four engineering courses that form the core of the program and have the flexibility to enroll in up to four more.

The focus on physics is one of the new program’s strengths, said Quamrul Haider, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physics.

“A solid background in basic physics principles is necessary to study engineering physics,” he said. “In fact, topics in engineering physics are intimately connected to pure physics. In order to understand engineering physics principles in the areas of laser and optical engineering, medical engineering, semiconductor and electrical engineering, for example, one must have a broad understanding of the theories and fundamentals of optics, biophysics, condensed matter theory and electricity and magnetism.

“Therefore, during the first two years, the students take pure physics courses,” he said. “It’s only in their junior and senior years that they take specialized engineering physics courses.”

Both Haider and Sanzari expect the program to grow steadily in the years ahead. Traditionally, there are many more engineering students than physics majors at the undergraduate level, Sanzari said, so the program has a strong potential to draw students to Fordham who would otherwise opt to go elsewhere.

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