The Department offers two accredited degree programs, one in Mechanical Engineering and the other in Aerospace Engineering. Students who wish to pursue both programs simultaneously can do so with careful planning of course selections. Either program provides a foundation for a wide range of career objectives and may be combined with certificate programs (Princeton's equivalent to a minor), such as Engineering Biology, Applied and Computational Mathematics, Materials Science in Engineering, Engineering Physics, Robotics and Intelligent Systems, and Engineering and Management Systems.
In keeping with Princeton's focus on teaching, the department has a favorable ratio of faculty to students, and faculty members make themselves readily available for advice and discussions. All MAE students engage in independent projects during their program, or select to write a senior thesis, either of which affords them the opportunity to work on real engineering problems in close collaboration with one or more faculty members and their graduate students. The multi-disciplinary nature of engineering also means that students frequently work with faculty in other departments, further increasing the scope of their explorations. Students can also initiate projects of their own with the help of a suitable advisor.
Princeton's strengths in the sciences and liberal arts provide a rigorous intellectual environment for the non-engineering courses required for the degree. For example, a MAE student who takes economics will be in class with students for whom economics is a chosen career path, creating a diversity of perspectives that strengthens insights. Princeton's Freshmen Seminar program exposes students to 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 which may also partially satisfy a design requirement. Independent projects enable students to build on and transcend classroom learning while contributing real solutions to societal problems. Year-long senior independent projects may constitute a senior thesis, and students are strongly encouraged to consider this option. Such self-motivated work has frequently led to publications and design patents.
In their independent work, students often collaborate closely with faculty members and their graduate students who study the same problem. The program facilitates bringing together as many scientific and nonscientific elements as necessary to pursue a topic; consequently, students may draw on faculty advisors from any relevant engineering or science department. This opportunity is often cited by students as the highlight of their four-year experience at Princeton.
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.