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Friday, January 30, 2009

Contact: Iris Foster, Interim Public Information Officer, 552-2806

Dream became reality on January 29, 2009 as the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved a mechanical engineering degree for The University of Texas of the Permian Basin. At a news conference Friday morning, UTPB President David Watts exclaimed, “Today, freshmen and sophomore or junior transfer students can apply for this new program for fall 2009. In fall 2010, senior transfers will be accepted,” he added.

“This long-awaited opportunity dovetails nicely with the coursework already undertaken by our 60 pre-engineering students and those involved in the HT3R Project—the High-Temperature Teaching and Test Reactor (HT3R) Energy Research Facility,” commented Dr. William Fannin, vice president of academic affairs and provost. Students will be able to major in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering with a nuclear emphasis. Some classes and laboratories will be located at UTPB’s Center for Energy & Economic Diversification (CEED).

Those enrolled in the community colleges’ pre-engineering classes will have a seamless transfer into the West Texas Higher Education Region’s only engineering program, according to Dr. Fannin. (UT Permian Basin and UT El Paso plan to continue the ENTRADA Engineering transfer program to provide a gateway for UTPB students to enter one of the five engineering majors other than mechanical engineering offered at UTEP.)
Mechanical engineers are employed in a variety of positions in the energy industry such as overseeing the multitude of mechanical systems in the oil patch, understanding and optimizing the chemical procedures used for plastic production arising from petroleum byproducts, knowing and following environmental regulations, and developing current and future initiatives in solar, wind, and nuclear technologies. Engineers can also have careers in entrepreneurship, construction, the medical/surgical equipment industry, and others.

Having an engineering program close to local industries is essential for economic development in the area. Plus, qualified graduates from a local institution would be excellent candidates to fill new openings and those created by retirement.

Furthermore, a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) has been signed between Los Alamos National Laboratory and UT System. Los Alamos’ [staff] is interested in collaborative research on advanced nuclear reactors and in the development of mechanical engineering at UTPB, according to Dr. Watts.

UTPB was recently recognized as No. 1 among state schools for graduates obtaining jobs and/or admission to Texas graduate schools. “We expect our future mechanical engineers to find employment quickly as well,” added Dr. Watts.

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