Newark College of Engineering meets industry needs
Meet Sunil Saigal of NCE
'When it comes to engineering and technology, Newark College of Engineering is at the center of the world,” says Sunil Saigal, PhD, dean of the engineering college of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT, Newark, NJ). Saigal is a PE, and a distinguished and tenured professor in the university’s department of civil and environmental engineering. He was appointed dean of the Newark College of Engineering (NCE) in the spring of 2007.
He’s quite serious about his claim. “If I throw a rock in any direction, I’m sure to hit ten or twenty engineering companies,” he says with a smile. And many, if not all of these companies are looking to engage with NCE and other engineering schools. “Besides wanting to hire our graduates, they’re looking to collaborate with us on the creation of new products by working with our researchers, students and faculty,” Saigal says.
NCE grads are trained to meet employers’ needs
What sets NCE apart from other engineering schools is what’s being done on campus. Since his arrival at the school, Saigal has made a singular effort to provide the kind of specialized masters programs that draw employers to the school.
“We need to offer degrees that are of most use to the engineering market,” Saigal says. “More importantly, we have to provide them quickly, while the skills are still in demand.”
Environmental engineering tops the current list for employers in a variety of industries. “There are tremendous environmental issues just in the state of New Jersey,” he says. “And there aren’t enough engineers available to work on those issues.”
The scarcity of grads with environmental engineering degrees has forced some companies to hire grads with other engineering degrees and train them. When Saigal learned this, he asked faculty members to identify the academic content those prospective employers would like to see in engineering grads.
The result was a master’s degree program in environmental engineering that has received resounding endorsement within the industry.
Many new programs
Saigal has adapted this strategy to other disciplines. NCE now engages companies in every offering at the masters level in an effort to meet the ever-changing needs of industry. New programs have been developed in healthcare engineering, pharmaceutical management, bioelectronics and power and energy systems.
Healthcare, bioelectronics and pharmaceutical engineering programs bridge the gap between life sciences and engineering. “We want to be known as the bioengineering, biomedical engineering, and bioenvironmental engineering center of the world,” Saigal says, “the place where life sciences interact with engineering in a natural, seamless way.”
The pharmaceutical and medical technology industry is the largest manufacturing industry in New Jersey. NCE’s pharmaceutical engineering masters program trains students in the science of drug manufacturing, pharmaceutical production, pharmaceutical development and pharmaceutical operations.
Transportation is another active area. NCE’s transportation masters and doctorate programs prepare students to be transportation planners, engineers and managers. The programs allow students to research all forms of transportation, including the provision of services and the movement of people and goods.
Some entry-level jobs
require a masters
Saigal notes that an engineering student doesn’t become a specialist until grad school. Furthermore, today’s engineers need to be more mature than previous generations and more knowledgeable about what it takes to run a successful enterprise in a global economy. NJIT has undertaken the task of training engineering students not only in tech skills but also entrepreneurship, leadership and management techniques.
“Since all these things cannot be covered in an undergrad program, many engineering students are staying in school for more than four years before starting to draw their first paycheck,” Saigal says. “It’s not surprising that the entry-level degree for many employers today is the masters.”
NCE’s new masters degrees are all twelve-month programs intended to get students prepared and into the workforce quickly. But the school accommodates working students too, by providing online courses and class times that fit around a typical work schedule. The school’s hybrid option allows students to take courses online but still have some face-to-face interaction with professors.
NCE welcomes transfer students to its programs. Saigal has great respect for the education students receive at other universities and community colleges. “As a state college, NJIT is the primary choice for students who have completed two-year programs at New Jersey county colleges,” he says.
NJIT promotes mentorships as well. Saigal advises grads considering a PhD program to scrutinize the professors’ backgrounds as they design their courses of study. “Choose an advisor or mentor who’s the kind of person you want to be and go work for that person,” he says.
NCE focuses on diversity
Diversity is another priority for the school. “It’s our job to provide the diverse job candidates employers are seeking,” says Saigal.
The school encourages applicants of all backgrounds. Of the 3,860 graduate and undergraduate students at NCE in 2007, 349 were African
American, 685 were Asian and 532 were Latino. About one fifth of the student population is female.
NCE is also doing its part to increase diversity among its own ranks. Almost 30 percent of its 141 faculty members are minorities.
High hopes for NCE grads
Saigal is excited for his students and faculty, and excited to be at NJIT. He notes that the sheer volume, magnitude and complexity of New Jersey’s environmental issues alone provide incredible opportunities for engineering grads. “We are the college that people are watching,” he says.