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Aerospace Engineering at CU Boulder or Mech E. at Colorado School of Mines

  1. Jul 28, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I was wondering if anyone had any advice. I have the opportunity to study at either Colorado School of Mines for MECH Eng. or at CU Boulder for Aerospace Eng. I wish to work in engine design at NASA or Space X or really anywhere eventually. So I was wondering if anyone had any advice for me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2012 #2


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    CU is a better school with a much better reputation. Their Aero Eng. dept is well respected.
  4. Jul 30, 2012 #3
    Thanks for your response but I was under the impression that CSM had a better reputation for engineering. Not trying to argue just wondering what you are basing that on. Also if anyone is familiar with the specifics of CU Boulder's aerospace engineering I would love to know what to expect.
  5. Jul 30, 2012 #4
    Just so you know, marcusl is not entirely correct. Colorado school of mines has a pretty darn good reputation in the mining and minerals processing industry. I don't know about how their graduates perform in other industries, however.
  6. Jul 30, 2012 #5
    Ok so with what I want to do CU Boulder is the best bet then it seems
  7. Jul 30, 2012 #6
    Well...if you want to do aerospace (or get a "minor" or something in it) then I would think it pretty obvious that the Colorado School of [/i]Mines[/i] would not be your best bet... :P

    With that said, if you want to do mechanical engineering in the aerospace field, then perhaps it's not so far off (though I can't comment on their fluid dynamics courses). I don't know the curriculum so I can't comment on that, but mechanical engineering allows for a lot of field-crossover. I, for instance, got a dual degree in Mechanical and Aerospace engineering, and I now work in the Mining and Minerals Processing industry.
  8. Jul 30, 2012 #7
    Yeh as I said what I want to work on Engine design eventually. Obviously I probably won't be doing that right off the bat but if aero at CU is my best bet to start on that path then I am more than happy to do it. Thanks for the advice.
  9. Jul 30, 2012 #8
    Yea, but you should understand that aeros don't generally do engine design, per se. That is not to say that a person with an aero degree can't get into engine design (you'll learn many of the requisite concepts) but that engines are designed by mechanical engineers (for aerospace specifically, propulsion systems engineers).

    If you want to do engine design, you should strongly consider at least a specialization in mechanical engineering.
  10. Jul 30, 2012 #9
    Ok huh sorry for my ignorance then but Engine design as in R&D on propulsion systems is not done by Aerospace Eng but Mech Eng. Can you quickly give me a few examples of what an Aero Eng might end up doing in the space industry.
  11. Jul 30, 2012 #10
    See, that's the thing. Your degree is just an indication that you understand the principals of engineering and can apply them to some degree. What you actually do in the field doesn't necessarily have to be what you got your degree in. For instance, if you get your degree in Aeronautical engineering, you may find that you are doing "mechanical" work for your entire career. Conversely, you might wind up doing the strict aero stuff. It really depends on the company, the industry, your goals, etc.

    Aero engineers do a lot of different things, but generally they are responsible for, as you might imagine, aerodynamics. They may work on control surfaces, or performance characteristics of various geometries (like delta vs straight airfoil planforms, stuff like that). I do not work as an aero engineer in industry, but the main thing you should realize is that something like "aeronautical engineer" aren't really job titles/descriptions. That is a broad range of job descriptions. Aero's definitely fit into the engine design "category", since they must be familiar with the principals of propulsion and are generally versed in nozzles and supersonic flows and that jazz, so I imagine they'd be part of it, but most of the work is likely to be what you might consider a "mechanical" engineer's job. The space industry is one of those that tend to have fairly specific types of engineers. Whereas the mining industry might have "Structural, Electrical, Piping, Mechanical" as major groups, the space industry has loads of 'em, "Propulsion systems, control surfaces, cooling, system control, electrical, bla bla bla".

    Also note that, if you want to do R&D, an undergraduate degree will likely not be the end of your formal education. In general, research is carried out by folks with at least a masters in their chosen field, and in many/most instances, a PhD. That is not to say that you can't work on propulsion systems and do just as interesting work, but there is a huge difference between altering and improving on current designs, and coming up with new ones altogether.

    Again, though, understand that in industry, you are not as limited by your degree as you might think.
  12. Jul 30, 2012 #11


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    Travis's comments are very good. To add to what he said, here are some other things that aero engineers do:
    Work on air-breathing or space vehicles (or both?)
    Systems engineering
    Space communications
    Effects of radiation
    Control systems
    Propulsion and attitude control
    Unmanned flight (UAV's)
    Sensor design
    Digital signal processing
    Power systems
    Remote sensing including imaging, synthetic aperture radar, IR and optical spectroscopy, altimetry, radiometry, magnetometry, etc., applied to earth and other planets
    Systems to support human life

    My earlier post was not meant to knock the School of Mines in other areas. It is a fact, however, that CU's aero department has an excellent reputation nationwide and that the school develops science experiments that fly to space, Mars, etc. The school has a hand in running these,and it analyzes data for NASA and JPL. I think that CSM's strengths lie elsewhere.

    CU's engineering school has an "coop" program where students (I think they are seniors) spend a year researching a problem or designing a product for an industry partner. The school holds an open house for the public during the Spring term to show off all of the projects. Specifically regarding engines, I saw a sophisticated jet engine exhaust system a few years back designed to solve some intricate problem, that a group of students researched and built at the request of a major aeronautics company.

    It's for these reasons that I recommend CU.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012
  13. Jul 30, 2012 #12
    I second that emotion
  14. Jul 30, 2012 #13
    Alright thanks for all the advice
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