Mechanical engineers generally deal with the relations among forces, work or energy, and power in designing systems to improve the human environment. They may work to extract oil from deep within the earth or send a spacecraft to the moon. The products of their efforts may be automobiles or jet aircraft, nuclear power plants or air conditioning systems, large industrial machinery or household can openers. They are involved in programs to better utilize natural resources of energy and materials as well as to lessen the impact of technology on the environment.
Mechanical engineers, while strongly oriented towards science, are not scientists. Science is a search for knowledge. The science of mathematics extends abstract knowledge. The science of physics extends organized knowledge of the physical world. In each of these, consideration can be limited to a carefully isolated aspect of reality. The mechanical engineer must deal with reality in all its aspects. He or she must not only be competent to use the most classical and the most modern parts of science, but also must be able to devise and make a product which will be used by people. Moreover, the engineer must assume professional responsibility insofar as the safety and well-being of society are affected by those products.
A program in Mechanical Engineering will be a most stimulating and rewarding undergraduate experience for the great majority of students entering this field. Such a program is established by an educational environment created by men and women in contact with the world of people and industry. Engineering education is being called upon to produce graduates well-versed in rapidly advancing science, and who can lead industry and the public into the new world which engineering will make possible.
Engineers will often discover in science, through their own research and invention or through the findings of scientists, those things which can be put to human use. In any engineering achievement, a new or better product is the objective; and all means available to the intellect of man will be employed to reach that objective. Science and its application remain a part, but only a part, of any great engineering advance. Young people who can respond to this kind of challenge are needed now, and they will be needed as never before in the years ahead.
The Rice Mechanical Engineering program is also designed to prepare the student to succeed in graduate school. Many of our graduates continue on for advanced study in areas such as business, engineering, law, and medicine.