Berkeley Engineering launches aerospace major
In response to a growing demand for researchers and developers in the fields of aviation, defense and space exploration, Berkeley Engineering has added a new aerospace engineering major to its portfolio of academic disciplines. The full undergraduate program will include a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering — with requirements that will allow students to pursue a double major combined with another engineering major — as well as a minor in aerospace engineering.
Launching in fall 2022, the program will have an inaugural cohort of 40 students and could expand to 200 students within four years. Student interest in the subject is already high, with at least 300 actively involved in aerospace-related clubs on the Berkeley campus. Even without a formal program in the field to date, Berkeley Engineering currently ranks at #14 in U.S. News & World Report’s ratings of aerospace and aeronautical programs nationwide.
The new major is designed for students who aspire to become leaders in an emerging era of aerospace technologies that include sustainable aviation, autonomous flight and space exploration. The program will be built around a dual focus of space exploration and low-altitude air mobility.
“We’ll be educating the next generation of aerospace engineering leaders who will be addressing major challenges in air transportation and space exploration,” said Panos Papadopoulos, professor of mechanical engineering and faculty lead of the aerospace engineering baccalaureate program. “Our students will benefit from a cutting-edge UC Berkeley education at a time when interest in aerospace engineering rivals that of the Apollo era.”
According to Business Wire, aerospace and defense aviation is a $1.6 trillion sector of the U.S. economy. As these fields grow in the years ahead, well-trained aerospace engineers will be increasingly in demand. Several reports by investment banks have predicted that the global space economy, currently valued at about $350 billion, could double to $800 billion within ten years and grow to at least $1 trillion within two decades.
“Private companies are already investing heavily in the technology of space flight aeronautics and are grappling with technical challenges that require discovery and innovation that university research can uniquely facilitate,” said Tsu-Jae King Liu, dean of the College of Engineering. “With our existing strength in this field, we are customizing a set of new courses that will give students a wide range of specialty curricula and technical knowledge.”
The college’s faculty is already engaged in cutting-edge aerospace engineering research, including low-Mach number aerodynamics, controls of aerodynamic systems, low-altitude flight control and management, astrophysics and space biology. In addition, its Institute of Transportation Studies has a broad expertise in low-altitude flight aerospace fields such as aviation infrastructure and economics and flight operations.
The campus has a strong interest in a long-term collaboration with NASA, Papadopoulos said, which could offer important avenues of engagement in federal and private research.
UC Berkeley recently signed a land-lease agreement with NASA on a 36-acre plot at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, which could become a major asset in supporting an aerospace program, especially one connected to NASA’s renewed interest in space exploration. There is also the potential for immediate collaboration and infrastructure leveraging with Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, which has an excellent record of supporting space missions, he said.