IU trustees support new engineering program

  • April 17, 2015

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By Michael Reschke

The Indiana University Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution to endorse the creation of an engineering program within the School of Informatics and Computing during a committee meeting Thursday afternoon. However, there are still a few more hurdles to jump before IU can make the program and accompanying degrees a reality.

The first of those is approval at the board’s business meeting Friday. With all board members present voting in favor of the resolution at the academic affairs and university policies committee meeting, that likely won’t be a problem. From there, the proposal will go before the Commission for Higher Education for its consideration. If the commission approves it, the program could begin accepting students by fall of 2016, said Bobby Schnabel, dean of the School of Informatics and Computing.

In his presentation to the board, Schnabel said the program will focus on three core areas, the first of which is something he called “small stuff engineering.” This area would deal with the technology of wearable and internal devices. Another area involves things like intelligent systems, which could develop technology for self-driving cars. The third deals with signal processing, which could be applied to such things as prosthetic limbs.

The program would launch with bachelor’s and doctoral programs. A master’s program would follow in 2017. The bachelor’s degree would have three concentrations: computer engineering/cyber-physical systems, bioengineering and nanoscale systems engineering. The Ph.D. program would have six tracks: computer engineering, cyber-physical systems, bioengineering, molecular and nanoscale engineering, environmental engineering and neuro-engineering.

The program would employ 20 to 25 faculty members, mainly hired from outside IU over a three- to four-year period, with partial appointments of current IU faculty. Schnabel said the plan is to have 125 students graduate from the program with bachelor’s degrees, 100 students with master’s degrees and 10 with Ph.D.’s each year.

IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel said a common concern among faculty is that their research is limited by the lack of an engineering program. IU President Michael McRobbie explained that having an engineering program would allow researchers in other fields to more easily develop prototypes for various inventions.

“They’re genuinely excited about what this means for their research endeavors,” he said. “That’s what we’ve lacked on this campus.”

Engineering hasn’t been lacking at Indiana’s other large state school, but Trustee Philip Eskew said this program won’t compete with the engineering programs at Purdue University.

“We have no desire to get into basic engineering,” he said. “That’s not IU.”

Instead, IU’s program will build on what it already does well, he said. Trustee Janice Farlow agreed, saying thanks to the School of Informatics and Computing, IU already has much of the necessary infrastructure in place to offer this type of engineering program.

“It’s a logical next step,” she said.