UNM-Los Alamos to offer bachelor’s program in mechanical engineering

August 17, 2020 - UNM Los Alamos

The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) and the UNM School of Engineering are collaborating to expand an existing two-year pre-engineering program to a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering (BSME) program on the UNM-LA campus. The program was developed to meet identified workforce needs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) but will also provide local students the same opportunity.

This fall, four engineering courses will be offered. Two courses are offered by UNM-LA at the 100-200 level as part of the pre-engineering degree curriculum, and two courses are 300-level courses taught by the UNM School of Engineering in Los Alamos. Because of COVID-19 precautions, two of the classes are now scheduled to be completely online, while the others are scheduled as hybrid classes. Additionally, several related mathematics and science courses are scheduled for the fall 2020 semester at UNM-LA. Classes start on August 17, but late registration is open until August 28.

"I thank UNM-Los Alamos for pioneering a program that serves both existing Laboratory employees seeking to upgrade their skills and new students seeking quality education close to home,” said Thom Mason, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “The Laboratory expects to hire about 1,000 employees per year in all fields over the next five years. I encourage tomorrow's engineers to use this program to begin their careers with us.”

This pilot program, which was enabled by funding from the New Mexico Consortium, will allow students to complete their BSME without traveling to UNM’s Albuquerque campus or to another four-year institution. Students can pursue their pre-engineering associate degree from UNM-LA, and as they complete the prerequisites, can enroll in the upper-division engineering courses that will be offered on the Los Alamos campus.

“This new collaborative program with the UNM School of Engineering will increase the number of mechanical engineering graduates, meeting an identified workforce need with LANL and providing area residents with increased access to education and career opportunities,” said Cynthia Rooney, chancellor of UNM Los Alamos. “This program serves as a model for innovation and cooperation, where UNM-LA, a branch campus-community college, works with the School of Engineering on the UNM Albuquerque campus, to serve as partners to provide the academic preparation needed in the local workforce.”

The University of New Mexico is excited to create and host this program, which will allow LANL staff and others to further their education and increase their skills,” said James Holloway, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at UNM. “We know these new LANL Lobos will make a difference for New Mexico."

In recent years, the role of mechanical engineers in research and development and other areas at LANL has expanded. This new collaboration is expected to increase the supply of mechanical engineers within the existing LANL workforce. Over 100 current LANL employees attended information sessions related to this proposed program. In addition to providing an educational opportunity for existing employees, this partnership will help build a sustainable pipeline (from community college through graduate school) of skilled graduates to address these local demands, while also providing students with well-paid, rewarding jobs.

To learn more about the bachelor’s program in mechanical engineering, contact Irina Alvestad, UNM-LA associate dean of instruction and mathematics, and engineering division chair, at irina@unm.edu