Case School of Engineering offers new master’s programs to meet industry needs

Case Western Reserve University’s School of Engineering has launched three new master’s degree programs that respond to shifts in industry and workforce demand.

The advanced degrees are aimed at professionals and recent graduates who seek specific training in wireless health, fire science and engineering or translational health technology.

Two of the programs start this fall; the third will see its first class of master’s students graduate in May.

Full-time students can earn degrees in a year or less; part-time students in two or three, depending on the program. The compact schedule caters to working engineers and scientists and is designed to help make pursuing an advanced degree more affordable.

The new offerings were created based on feedback from more than 60 local and national companies and non-profits that Case School of Engineering Dean Jeffrey Duerk and department chairs met with last year.

“Our local and national partners responded that there is the need for additional training, continuous workforce development and sustainable competitive advantage that we can provide,” Duerk said.

A bachelor’s degree provides the fundamentals, while these programs provide a tremendous amount of depth in a particular area, said Pat Crago, associate dean.

With the support of UL (Underwriters Laboratories), Case Western Reserve will offer a certificate in fire science and engineering this fall. The master’s focuses on the scientific disciplines of combustion, found in mechanical engineering, and flammability, found in macromolecular science and engineering.

“The program reflects the growing need for fire engineers and scientists who can research and improve products, building materials, structures and more in the ever-changing environment,” said August Schaefer, senior vice president and public safety officer at UL.

Business surveys, as well as industry partners and trade organizations, say there is a need for fire prevention engineers and desire for new fire protection and safety research, said Iwan Alexander, chair of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Mechanical engineering has long offered combustion engineering as a subfield, but the new master’s program includes courses from chemical engineering and materials science and several from macromolecular science and engineering.

“Materials that burn reside in polymer science and engineering, and understanding the chemistry of materials helps you understand the event,” said David Schiraldi, chair of macromolecular science and engineering.

The program builds on longstanding partnerships with NASA, including research in fire prevention, detection and suppression, and more recent partnerships with UL, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Federal Aviation Administration. The master’s degree can be in either mechanical engineering or macromolecular science and engineering.

The Translational Health Technology program, also beginning this fall, is designed for science and engineering undergraduates who want to be project managers or run a start-up, and for health care professionals who want to learn about translation. The coursework is aimed at developing expertise in turning ideas for biomedical treatments and technologies into real uses in a clinical practice.

“There’s a lot of basic research in healthcare. The ability to translate research to real applications is a priority nationwide,” Crago said. “The National Institutes of Health has made it a priority.”

Cleveland has become one of the nation’s highest-ranked cities for angel investments and for biotech start-ups, said Dominique Durand, professor of biomedical engineering and the driver behind the translational master’s. “We need to provide the right tools to the people here, who want to stay here.”

The coursework includes bioengineering, marketing, entrepreneurship, bioregulatory affairs, ethics and experimental design.

The traditional master’s in biomedical engineering is more research-focused. “This is more for managers who like science but don’t want to be a scientist,” said Colin Drummond, director of biomedical engineering translational research. “This program fine tunes competence, and the experiential components make students much more marketable on the commercial product side.”

Mehran Mehregany, Goodrich Professor of Engineering Innovation in electrical engineering and computer science, saw that the strengths in his department and in biomedical engineering were natural fits for the burgeoning wireless health industry. He opened the program in San Diego, where companies investing in the new technology are concentrated.

Wireless health takes advantage of the same technologies that enable people to connect and compute, work, watch TV and movies, shop, socialize and play games almost anywhere. But the focus is on developing devices to monitor and improve health.

“This trend is infiltrating health care and has significant implications for quality, convenience, reach and cost of care,” said Mehregany, director of the San Diego Programs of the Case School of Engineering.

Qualcomm Inc. is the program’s founding corporate sponsor. The wireless health educational program offerings, taught in San Diego and online, are designed to prepare professionals involved in technology, physical sciences, healthcare or management.

“This international growth industry needs experts who understand health care, wireless communications, biomedical instrumentation, clinical studies, information technology, persuasive psychology and innovation management,” Mehregany said.

The first class of wireless health master’s students will graduate in May. Applications for all three programs are being accepted for fall.