AEROSPACE engineering concentration now a new major

Starting this year, the College of Engineering is offering aerospace engineering as a major rather than a concentration, as it had been previously offered.
“After having the aerospace concentration option for seven or eight years, students, parents and the ROTC program had expressed interest in opening it as a major,” Dr. Singiresu S. Rao, mechanical engineering chair, said. “Especially in Florida, we’ve been observing growing interest in the field and yet only one other university in Florida [University of Central Florida] offers it.”
According to Rao, before opening the program, the mechanical engineering department looked into aerospace engineering in schools such as Case Western Reserve, Notre Dame, UCLA and UCF in order to design the major to be at a similar yet competitive level.
According to Dr. Ge-Cheng Zha, head professor of the aerospace engineering program, UM is fully equipped to accommodate the necessities of the major.
“Compared to other schools around the country, we are relatively new, but we are well-staffed and have good facilities, including a laboratory,” Zha said.
Currently, 17 students are enrolled in the new program, and Rao hopes this number will increase as word gets out about the major.
Aerospace engineering focuses on analyzing, designing and developing vehicles used in flight, such as commercial, military and space aircraft. Classes at UM include aerodynamics, propulsion, aerospace structure and flight dynamics, along with the usual mathematical and scientific requirements of the College of Engineering.
“We learn about how airplanes fly, like what speeds are needed for landing and takeoff, and how much engine power is needed,” Sam Havener, senior, said. “We’re actually going to a simulator a couple of times to apply our knowledge.”
This simulator is owned by the ROTC program, which works hand in hand with the engineering department. In fact, learning how to fly on the simulator is required in the aerospace program.
Students also acquire firsthand experience through a senior design project and internships.
“In class, students do senior design; that is, they participate in a senior design project that gives them hands-on experience,” Zha said.
Recent designs include a propeller and a micro air vehicle.
In the past, internships have included working at a helicopter factory, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin and the US Navy.
According to administration, several students have received lucrative job offers from these internships and the largest job market for this career is in the United States, where aerospace engineers are hired for either large aircraft manufacturing companies or by the government, including military institutions.
According to both Rao and Zha, the average beginning salary of an aerospace engineer is between $50,000 and $60,000 a year, which is comparable to that of a mechanical engineer.
The addition of the degree program to the College of Engineering has been met by both praise and apprehension from students.
“I think it’s better to have it as a major than as a concentration because as a concentration you don’t have all the tools of aerospace,” Mark Bianco, senior, said. “You also miss out on parts of the mechanical engineering program when you take the aerospace studies concentration.”
Not all students agree.
“The concentration is a better option because the job market for aerospace engineers fluctuates every decade,” Alex Conley, senior, said. “Mechanical engineering gives you more choices.”
For more information on the program, visit the College of Engineering website at or contact Dr. Singiresu S. Rao at

Patricia Mazzei can be contacted at