Mechanical Engineering

The educational objective of the undergraduate program in mechanical engineering is to prepare graduates so that, within three years of graduation, they will have successfully established themselves in professional careers and/or obtained a graduate degree, and will have begun to generate new knowledge or exercise leadership in their positions to the benefit of society. 

Each graduate of the mechanical engineering program is expected to:

  • apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering;
  • identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems;
  • use computers to solve engineering problems;
  • use modern instrumentation;
  • design and conduct experiments, including the use of probability and statistics;
  • understand contemporary issues in mechanical engineering;
  • analyze and interpret data;
  • design thermal systems, components, or processes to meet desired needs;
  • design mechanical systems, components, or processes to meet desired needs;
  • understand the processes used to manufacture products;
  • understand contemporary issues in mechanical engineering;
  • make effective oral presentations;
  • write effectively;
  • function effectively on multi-disciplinary teams;
  • understand professional and ethical responsibility;
  • understand the impact of engineering in a global and societal context; and
  • engage in lifelong learning.

Course code for this program is MCEN.

Bachelor's Degree Program(s)

Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering

The undergraduate curriculum in mechanical engineering incorporates engineering science, physical science, mathematics, and the humanities and social sciences. The engineering science component provides basic theoretical and practical concepts in solid mechanics, materials, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, design, and manufacturing. Required courses in engineering science, physical science, and mathematics are interwoven throughout the curriculum to provide a balanced education in the fundamentals of the profession and comprise three-fourths of the minimum curriculum requirement of 128 semester hours; they are complemented by four technical electives, five electives in the humanities and social sciences, a junior-level writing course, and a free elective.

Options in environmental and biomedical engineering are available for students interested in these interdisciplinary areas.

Curriculum for BS (ME)

Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours

Freshman Year
Fall Semester

  • APPM 1350 Calculus 1 for Engineers —4
  • CHEM 1221 General Chemistry Laboratory for Engineers—2
  • CHEN 1211 General Chemistry for Engineers—3
  • GEEN 1500 Introduction to Engineering—2
  • MCEN 1025 Computer-Aided Design and Fabrication—4
  • Freshman Seminar—1

Spring Semester

  • APPM 1360 Calculus 2 for Engineers—4
  • GEEN 1300 Introduction to Engineering Computing—3
  • GEEN 1400 First-year Engineering Projects—3
  • PHYS 1110 General Physics 1—4
  • Humanities or social science elective—3

Sophomore Year
Fall Semester

  • APPM 2350 Calculus 3 for Engineers—4
  • MCEN 2023 Statics and Structures—3
  • MCEN 2024 Materials Science—3
  • PHYS 1120 General Physics 2—4
  • PHYS 1140 Experimental Physics—1

Spring Semester

  • APPM 2360 Introduction to Differential Equations with Linear Algebra—4
  • MCEN 2043 Dynamics—3
  • MCEN 2063 Mechanics of Solids—3
  • PHYS 2130 General Physics 3—3
  • Humanities or social science—3
  • Free elective—1

Junior Year
Fall Semester

  • ECEN 3010 Circuits and Electronics—3
  • MCEN 3012 Thermodynamics—3
  • MCEN 3021 Fluid Mechanics —3
  • MCEN 3030 Computational Methods—3
  • WRTG 3030 Writing on Science and Society—3

Spring Semester

  • MCEN 3022 Heat Transfer—3
  • MCEN 3025 Component Design—3
  • MCEN 3032 Thermodynamics 2—3
  • MCEN 3037 Experimental Design and Data Analysis—2
  • Humanities or social science elective—3

Senior Year
Fall Semester

  • MCEN 4026 Manufacturing Processes and Systems—3
  • MCEN 4037 Measurements Laboratory—2
  • MCEN 4043 System Dynamics—3
  • MCEN 4045 Mechanical Engineering Design Project 1—3
  • MCEN technical elective—3
  • Humanities or social science elective—3

Spring Semester

  • MCEN 4047 Mechanical Engineering (Senior) Laboratory—2
  • MCEN 4085 Mechanical Engineering Design Project 2—3
  • MCEN technical elective—3
  • Humanities or social science elective—3
  • General technical electives—6
  • Humanities or social science elective—3
  • Minimum total hours for degree—128

Graduate Degree Program(s)

Graduate Study in Mechanical Engineering

The department offers master of science (MS), master of engineering (ME), and doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree programs to students whose career plans include advanced practice, research and development, and/or teaching at the college or university level. 

Master's Degree

Students pursuing the degree of master of science or master of engineering in mechanical engineering may follow either Plan I, which requires the writing of a thesis, or Plan II, which involves only course work. A student following Plan I must complete a minimum of 24 semester hours of course work and 6 semester hours of thesis work; at least 15 semester hours of the course work must be in the mechanical engineering department. A student following Plan II must complete a minimum of 30 semester hours of course work, of which at least 18 semester hours must be in the mechanical engineering department. Up to 9 semester hours of graduate course work may be transferred from another accredited institution as long as those hours were not used to satisfy another degree requirement. Students should consult with an academic advisor to decide what course of study best meets their academic objectives.

Doctoral Degree

A student pursuing the PhD in mechanical engineering must complete a minimum of 30-36 semester credit hours in courses numbered 5000 or above (9 of these credits must include MCEN 5020, 5040, and 5208), as well as 30 semester hours of dissertation credit. Up to 21 semester hours of graduate course work may be transferred from another accredited institution; there is no credit limit for appropriate courses taken at the University of Colorado, such as those taken for the master of science degree.

Every student desiring to pursue the PhD degree must first pass a preliminary examination. As a part of this evaluation, students must pass two written examinations designed to test research and fundamental mechanical engineering competency. They must also pass a research presentation given to a committee of at least three faculty members. Overall performance in the required examinations will determine pass/fail status.

After passing the preliminary examination, students continue their course work and prepare a written thesis prospectus. When ready, they take an oral comprehensive examination covering the graduate course work and the thesis prospectus. After passing the comprehensive examination, students are admitted into the PhD program and conduct original research required to satisfy the thesis requirement. This research culminates in the writing of the thesis, which students defend in a final examination.

PhD students are assigned an academic advisor to review their progress toward the degree. Students are expected to meet with the advisor at least once each semester prior to registration. Once students have selected a research topic for the thesis, academic advising is done by their thesis advisor. Additional information on graduate study may be found in the Graduate School section.

Graduate Research

Research activities are concentrated in three contemporary themes: micro/nano scale engineering, energy/environment, and bioengineering. Faculty engage in these theme areas through three disciplinary areas of mechanical engineering: fluid mechanics/thermal sciences, solid mechanics/material sciences, and design/manufacturing. Faculty and students collaborate with universities and laboratories across the United States and throughout the world.

Example research efforts in micro/nano systems include: design and reliability of MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS), nanosystems, carbon nanotubes, mechanical properties of nanowires, nanomaterial processing, nanocomposites, disk drive shock analysis, microporous membranes, polymer derived ceramics, active materials and structures, multi-scale computational fluids modeling, and MEMS/electronics packaging.

Example research efforts in energy/environment include: flame treatment of polymer films, microgravity combustion of metals, urban air quality modeling, indoor air pollution, aerosal particle characterization and health effects, energy policies and climate impacts, and theoretical/computational fluid dynamics.

Example research efforts in bioengineering include: optical biopsy of prostate cancer, shape memory polymers/alloys, cardiovascular fluid/bio mechanics, MEMS-based biosensing, ultrasound imaging, device design, nanoparticle diagnostics, and metallic/polymer biomaterials. These efforts are facilitated by collaborations with the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado Denver, the Children’s Hospital, and the Colorado State Veterinary College.

Department research activities are supported by a wide range of industrial and federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Institute of Health (NIH), Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), and Defense Agency Research Project Association (DARPA). Some research activities are carried out through interdisciplinary department research centers including the Joint Center for Combustion and Environmental Research (JCCER), Membrane Applied Science and Technology (MAST) Center, and Integrated Micro/Nanoelectro-mechanical Transducers (iMINT).