The Department offers two accredited degree programs, one in Mechanical Engineering and the other in Aerospace Engineering. Careful planning and the selection of technical electives will permit the requirements of both these programs to be satisfied simultaneously. To satisfy the needs of students with a wide range of career objectives, either program may be combined with certificate programs such as Engineering Biology, Applied and Computational Mathematics, Materials Science in Engineering, Engineering Physics, Robotics and Intelligent Systems, and Engineering and Management Systems.
The favorable ratio of faculty to students in the department means that they can be easily contacted for advice and discussions. All Departmental students engage in Independent Projects during their program, or select to write a senior thesis, and this affords them the opportunity to collaborate closely with one or more faculty members and their graduate students while working on real engineering problems. The multi-disciplinary nature of engineering also means that faculty in other departments can be associated with such projects, further increasing the scope of the exploration. Students are also able to initiate projects of their own with the help of a suitable adviser.
Princeton's strengths in the sciences and liberal arts provides a challenging intellectual environment for the non-engineering courses required for the degree. For example, one takes economics with students for whom this is a chosen career path and this peer level interaction strengthens the insights one gets from the course. Residential life also offers challenging opportunities through the College based Freshman Seminar program. The co-discovery orchestrated by the seminar's faculty member exposes other avenues to understanding challenging topics in significant depth.
The Financial Aid policy of the University means that admissions decisions are not influenced by financial needs and that grants have replaced loans so that it is not necessary to go into debt to attend Princeton.
Independent Work and Thesis
The Department offers a remarkable opportunity for students to engage in an independent program in invention, development, and/or research on a topic of their choice. All students are required to do at least one semester of Independent Work (Independent Work Guidelines) which may also partially satisfy a Design requirement. Independent projects enable one to utilize, and to transcend, classroom learning by applying creativity, coupled with the scientific background acquired from classes, toward a challenging project. Year-long senior independent projects may constitute a Senior Thesis, and students are strongly encouraged to consider this option. The result of such self-motivated activity has frequently led to publications and design patents.
Students have the opportunity to to work on a topic which a Faculty advisor is pursuing and this close collaboration will frequently also involve interaction with graduate students studying the same problem. An aspect of the program is to facilitate bringing together as many scientific and nonscientific elements as necessary to pursue a topic; consequently, faculty advisors are not limited to just those within the MAE department. Advisors can be from any relevant engineering or science department and can also co-advise on the problem. This opportunity is often cited by students as the highlight of their four year experience at Princeton. In the words of Joseph Campbell "You can follow your own bliss."
All senior students are required to participate in the program. Their efforts culminate in an in- depth exploration of topical challenges in society, using technology to address the needs of the world.
A high number of independent work students collect nationally recognized awards and honors, including fellowships and scholarships such as Marshall Scholarships, Rhodes Scholarships, and Churchill Scholarships as well as winning competitions with their independent work.
The independent project provides the opportunity to address real-world issues beyond academia through the development of a solution or improvement to society. Furthermore, this opportunity encourages learning how to present ideas to the public. This is an essential element of a technical education and is central to taking concepts further than the academic laboratory and having them recognized as useful.