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September 25, 2012

Purdue offering new degree in environmental and ecological engineering

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University will award its first bachelor's degrees in environmental and ecological engineering next May.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved the degree Sept. 14, the final step in establishing a new program.

The new degree will be administered by the Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering (EEE). The division was established five years ago as an independent academic unit within the College of Engineering.

John W. Sutherland, the Fehsenfeld Family Head of EEE, said that until now, students had earned degrees in multidisciplinary engineering. With the approval, 42 students will transition into the new EEE bachelor's degree program. Several additional students are expected to transfer from other programs, bringing the number of EEE majors to more than 50, Sutherland said.

"The target size for our undergraduate program is 115; we should be producing 35 graduates per year within five to six years," he said.

"As a division, we are able to engage faculty from across all of engineering to deliver EEE courses," Sutherland said. "This allows us to draw on broad expertise to address fundamental engineering issues with respect to environmental protection and environmental quality.

"Our approach is different from many other environmental engineering programs. We don't just focus on pollution control and managing legacy and existing environmental problems," he said. "In addition, we emphasize the need to design engineered systems to proactively prevent future environmental challenges."

Sutherland said the demand for students with an environmental and ecological engineering degree is strong; the rate of environmental engineering job growth is the second-highest of all engineering disciplines, lagging only biomedical engineering. He noted that during the recent Industrial Roundtable job fair on campus, the students who are expected to earn EEE degrees in May drew tremendous interest from potential employers. 

EEE also is an attractive engineering discipline for young women. The students in the new degree program are 55 percent female. That compares with 2011-12 enrollments of 21 percent female for all of engineering and 42.6 percent female for all of Purdue. 

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu

Source: John Sutherland, 765-496-9697, jwsuther@purdue.eud