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NIU Unveils First Ph.D. Programs in Engineering

New partnership will allow students to complete doctoral dissertations on the job.

New partnership will allow students to complete doctoral dissertations on the job.

The College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) at Northern Illinois University (NIU) will begin offering its first doctoral programs with three Ph.D. degrees in electrical, mechanical, and industrial and systems engineering.

The new programs, which will take advantage of online and on-campus learning, were approved in September 2019 by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram, Ph.D., says the degrees keep NIU relevant in engineering. 

“Our College of Engineering and Engineering Technology is known for its forward-thinking approach to engineering education, and this is yet another example of innovation in program delivery,” Ingram says. 

The new degrees follow the college’s two recently added multidisciplinary undergraduate programs in tbiomedical engineering and mechatronics engineering. CEET Dean Donald Peterson, Ph.D., says the doctoral-level offerings reflect a need to stay in step with hiring demand and help students compete in the workforce.

Peterson explained that the knowledge and skill sets gained through bachelors and masters engineering degree programs may not effectively respond to the marketplace given the increasing demands for competitive engineering practices geared towards rapid technological innovation and globalization.  

“Current Ph.D. engineering education, especially in the U.S., is designed to produce faculty,” says Peterson, “but data collected by the American Society of Engineering Educators indicate that 70% of Ph.D. engineering graduates in the US have the desire to work in industry rather than academia.  Our Ph.D. programs will look to meet the need for career paths to industry and are structured to produce industry leaders and technology innovators, especially in Illinois where highly skilled engineers of all disciplines are in high demand.” 

At the core of the new doctoral programs is the Industrial Fellows Program (IFP). The program will partner students with global companies to do their dissertation work on the job and ensure them employment upon graduation. Peterson says the hands-on approach is an underlying theme for CEET at all levels.

“There is nothing like the IFP in the region and the nation,” he says. “We expect it to ultimately serve as a national model within contemporary doctorate engineering education.”

“The newly approved Ph.D. programs are designed to draw upon faculty and industry expertise, as well as curricular content within the college and university, to advance deeper innovative solutions in close partnerships with industry,” says Mansour Tahernazadi, Ph.D., senior associate dean of research and graduate programs for CEET. 

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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