by George Zamora
SOCORRO, N.M., November 24, 2003 – New Mexico Tech has added two new graduate degree programs to its science and engineering curricula — a master of science degree in electrical engineering and a doctoral program in applied and industrial mathematics.
“These new graduate degree programs have been successfully validated through an intensive two-year review and approval process, which culminated last month with the unanimous approval of both programs by the New Mexico Commission on Higher Education and the State Board of Finance,” says Peter F. Gerity, vice president for academic affairs at New Mexico Tech.
“We believe these new programs will strengthen New Mexico Tech’s academic offering portfolio and will greatly augment our research capacity in these areas of high growth,” Gerity adds.
The new graduate degree programs at New Mexico Tech are notably different than other seemingly similar offerings at other universities, says David B. Johnson, Tech’s dean of graduate studies.
“Both of these new programs are strongly interdisciplinary in structure, and both will be able to draw heavily on the unique resources available through collaborations with the university’s various research organizations and facilities,” Johnson explains.
Courses leading up to fulfilling the requirements of the new graduate degree programs will be offered as early as the upcoming 2004 Spring Semester at New Mexico Tech, with as many as three doctoral candidates and five to ten master’s level graduate students expected to enroll at the onset, according to a recent report presented by Vice President Gerity to the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents.
“In fact, there are several master of science students in similar engineering programs who have been taking courses at Tech in anticipation of the approval of the electrical engineering master’s degree,” Johnson says. “Some of these graduate students will likely transfer into the new electrical engineering program as soon as it starts up.”
“The obvious benefit to New Mexico Tech electrical engineering students is that there now can be Tech graduate electrical engineering students,” says Scott Teare, an associate professor of electrical engineering at New Mexico Tech who led the effort to gain the new graduate degree program in his department.
“Until now, graduates from Tech’s electrical engineering B.S. program would have to either leave the school — which often meant leaving the state — or switch into other existing graduate programs in order to continue their research with electrical engineering professors,” Teare recounts. “Some of our recent students have gone on to pursue their graduate education with the Tech physics, mechanical engineering, and computer science departments; and, of course, we are grateful to the faculty of these departments for having supported our efforts over the past years. However, it was becoming very apparent that these electrical engineering students needed to have a graduate program of their own.”
The doctoral program in applied and industrial mathematics also is expected to draw its initial pool of candidates from current New Mexico Tech students.
“Although there are two other existing math Ph.D. programs in the state, there is no other program in applied and industrial mathematics,” says William Stone, professor of mathematics and chairman of the mathematics department at New Mexico Tech.
“Our main goal with the new doctoral program is to produce Ph.D.-level researchers, who are well-prepared to work in industrial research and development groups, rather than producing math faculty candidates,” he clarifies. “The Ph.D.s who graduate from this new program will have strengths in modeling and analysis, as well as with working with researchers in various other fields.”
As is the case with all of New Mexico Tech’s science and engineering degree programs, the new graduate degree programs also will have a strong research component ingrained into them.
“The uniqueness of our electrical engineering graduate program is its strong ties to the research and technical facilities affiliated with our university, the immediate Socorro area, and our educational partners,” Teare points out. “These include our on-campus research associates, such as the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, the Institute for Complex Additive Systems Analysis, IRIS/PASSCAL, Langmuir Laboratory, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, as well as our off-campus educational partners, such as the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, California, and the Air Force Research Lab in Albuquerque.”
“Many of the specialized research groups at Tech also have a real need for math researchers,” Stone adds. “The expertise provided by this new program will help these groups — who hire many students and graduates — prosper. The improved research atmosphere will help keep the math faculty here at Tech excited and on top of their fields.
“Furthermore, we sometimes have good prospective master’s students in math who choose to go elsewhere because they think they may eventually want to continue on to the Ph.D. level. . . . This new doctoral program will allow us to bring more of these students to Tech,” Stone says.
“It would be something of an understatement to say that the approval process for graduate degrees in New Mexico is fairly involved,” Johnson relates.
“The electrical engineering and mathematics departments have put an enormous amount of work into preparing and defending these proposals,” the Tech dean of graduate studies says. “In one case, the process extended for over three years, so I’m certain that there were times when some despaired of the outcome, but no one considered giving up.
“Even if it had been considered, it was never an option,” Johnson says. “These programs are that critical to the mission of New Mexico Tech.”