Internal Academic Review Committee

Report on the Review of the Department of Mechanical Engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is one of the largest departmental units in the Faculty of Applied Science, well known for its strength in the area of undergraduate education. It does however, face the challenge of developing and exhibiting the same commitment to its graduate studies and research programs. The Report of the External Consultants states " . . . from an outside perspective, the focus on the undergraduate program is very clear. The graduate program is not as well recognized . . ." Indeed, the External Consultants recommend that "specific research areas should be identified as focus areas that will lead the university to a higher level of recognition in the research arena, both nationally and internationally."

In their reports the reviewers highlight the strong dedication of the Department to offering an excellent undergraduate program. Undergraduate students in this Department are also afforded unique and exciting extracurricular educational opportunities such as participation on the well-known Solar Vehicle Team. Moreover, the students express overall satisfaction, enthusiasm and pride in being part of the Department.

However, the reports also mention that the Department does not appear to have the same commitment to its graduate program or to research. The reviewers observe that for the size of the unit, the graduate enrolment is low, and they recommend that initiatives to increase enrolment be supported. Furthermore, on the research side, it is worth noting that despite the fact that in the past few years it has been the central node of three major research initiatives at the University level (viz. the Centre for Automotive Materials and Manufacturing, the Centre for Advanced Computing, and the Human Mobility Research Centre), the Department as a whole does not appear to have embraced a common direction in research. As a result, the perception from outside the Department and the University persists that there is a singular focus on undergraduate endeavours. It is recommended that these issues be addressed as a matter of priority.

The reviewers identified a number of issues related to infrastructure. Specifically it was noted that the departmental machine shop requires upgrading and expansion; the shipping and receiving facilities are inadequate; and the configuration of space presents concerns with the Department currently operating out of several different buildings. The IARC suggests that the first step in addressing the issue of space configuration is for the Department to develop and articulate a compelling vision and plan for its program and future direction.

With its successes in the research initiatives noted above as a starting point, the Department of Mechanical Engineering should seize the opportunity to focus its research direction and strengthen its graduate program, while maintaining its excellent national and international reputation in the area of undergraduate education.

Follow-up on these recommendations and issues will take place in the annual staffing and budget strategy meetings between the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and the Vice-Principal (Academic).