Name any of the top aerospace companies in America and chances are, its workforce includes graduates from the University of Central Florida (UCF).
For the fourth year in a row, UCF has been ranked the No. 1 supplier of graduates to the US aerospace and defense industries by Aviation Week, above every other university in the nation.
“Our students are graduating and going to work at some of the top engineering work forces in the country,” said Yoav Peles, Chair of the UCF Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “We have students working at Lockheed Martin, Siemens, the Kennedy Space Center, all over the place.”
It doesn’t hurt that UCF is located in Orlando, Florida, close to some of the leading engineering companies including Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Mitsubishi, NASA and Disney. In fact, location is motivating factor for many international students who choose to study at UCF.
“Florida is ranked No. 6 in the US for states with the most international students studying at a college or university,” said Peles. “As one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, Orlando is the epicenter of rapid economic growth as more engineering companies begin calling it their home.”
More students are sure to call UCF home after the launch of its newest engineering program, a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. The degree was recently approved at state level and the MAE department is now accepting applications for the fall 2019 semester.
The Ph.D. joins the department’s other programs, including a Ph.D. in Mechanical engineering, and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering. More than 4,000 students are currently enrolled in MAE programs, and more than 550 students have graduated from UCF with a degree in aerospace engineering over the past five years.
The success of these alumni post-graduation has been inspiring to others, including Abhishek Saha, who earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from UCF in 2012.
“MAE graduates are doing well in the industry and in academia,” Saha said. “When I was a student, it was very encouraging to see and hear about their success stories. Sometimes I would talk with them to get tips and to learn about future opportunities. I know many of them are now working at big companies like Siemens, General Electric, the Harris Corporation and Lockheed Martin, to name a few.”
Saha has found his own success after graduating from UCF. He now serves as an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He was in India when he started searching for the right graduate school and quickly discovered the US could offer great opportunities for studying abroad.
“When I was identifying a school, I was looking for a university that has a good research program in mechanical engineering (particularly in thermal-science), a diverse student population and a good location,” he said. “After checking the research programs at other universities, I realized that the Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at UCF could give me the opportunity I was looking for.”
He describes UCF’s research activities as multidimensional and appreciates the university’s multidisciplinary approach to research. As a graduate student, Saha took the chance to present his findings at national and international conferences where he networked with other scholars in the field. He also worked at some of the research centers on campus, including the Siemens Energy Center, home to the MAE department’s Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research, which recently secured a US$500 million grant from Siemens.
“The research experience I received at UCF during my doctoral study helped me immensely in building my professional career,” he said. “In addition to learning about the topic of my research, I also got to know about many interdisciplinary topics by frequent interactions with fellow researchers at UCF. The research environment at UCF taught me how to ask the “right” question, which is the very basic inquisitiveness that drives any scientific research.”
The lure of MAE’s research was also a factor for alumni Krishna Kota and Sarada Kuravi, a husband and wife who teach thermal sciences and energy at New Mexico State University. Kota, in particular, chose UCF so he could work with and learn from some of the faculty.
The MAE department is comprised of more than 40 core faculty members whose research ranges from design and manufacturing to materials processing and biomechanics. Students work closely with faculty on innovative research projects, many of which are industry-sponsored. Ph.D. students also have the opportunity to pursue fellowships, graduate research assistantships and graduate teaching assistantships to pay for their tuition.
As proof of the university’s research reputation, UCF has earned a Carnegie Classification of Highest Research Activity. UCF also ranks among the nation’s top 25 US public universities for the number of patents secured by the National Academy of Inventors.
“I think the unique thing about UCF is its emphasis on patents and technology commercialization, especially as a growing university,” said Kuravi. “This, I believe, is a very well planned thought as revenue from technology commercialization may be a considerable part of the budget of universities in the future.”
With the university’s interdisciplinary focus on research and its diverse population, students can collaborate with their peers from around the world.
In addition to the diverse student body, UCF also offers a diverse range of amenities and social opportunities. Kota, Suravi and Saha fondly remember their walks around the beautiful reflecting pond, working out at the Recreation and Wellness Center, and playing sports on the intramural fields. UCF is also conveniently close to Florida’s sunny beaches and popular theme parks.
“UCF has innumerable resources for everyone, and my suggestion would be to be ambitious and explore all resources relevant to your goals, whatever they may be,” he said. “The knowledge and experiences that I gained during my stay at UCF have been extremely helpful in my career, especially in performing all aspects of my current job as well as in all of my previous jobs in both higher education and the industry.”