College Announces New STEM-Related Degrees

Summer internships and research opportunities will be part of the new Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering program (Photo by Cliff Hollis).

The College of Engineering and Technology (CET) announced three new degree programs: Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering (BSSE), Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME) and Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS).

ECU Dean Harry Ploehn poses for photo

Dean Harry Ploehn

“These new degrees reflect the college’s commitment to maximizing student success and leading regional transformation,” said Dr. Harry Ploehn, CET dean. “Software engineering, mechanical engineering and data science are high-demand fields. When we can provide graduates in these fields who want to live and work in our region, companies will come, grow and thrive here.”

The new BSSE degree will replace the current Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, which the department has offered since 1972. It will apply engineering principles and proven industry practices to enable graduates to design, produce and validate large-scale, high-quality, secure software. Special features of the program include well-balanced coverage of theory and practice, and summer internship and research experiences.

The BSSE program will recruit high school seniors and community college transfer students who plan to enroll as full-time students. “Society’s demand for fast, accurate and secure computing and software will continue to increase,” said Ploehn. “ECU will provide the computer scientists and software engineers who will meet this demand.”

Dr. Tarek Abdel-Salam

The MSME degree is a research-oriented program that will focus on two areas — advanced energy systems and mechanics of biomaterials. Advanced energy systems include sustainable and efficient energy systems such as solar, wind and ocean-wave energy. Mechanics of biomaterials centers around the mechanical behavior of biological tissues, as well as materials for medical implants.

Graduates will gain advanced problem-solving and critical thinking skills to serve a wide range of industries and government organizations. This program will cater to those who have completed degrees in engineering, science and health care professions – and are looking for advanced knowledge and research skills needed to advance in their careers.

“This (MSME) new degree program aligns with key components of the ECU mission statement, which is to be a national model for student success and public service,” said Dr. Tarek Abdel-Salam, an associate dean for CET. “ECU is the only university within the UNC System that offers academic programs in engineering, medicine, dentistry, nursing and allied health on one campus. The MSME program plans to take advantage of these strengths.”

Dr. Venkat Gudivada,(Photo by Cliff Hollis)

The MS in Data Science is an interdisciplinary degree program involving ECU’s departments of computer science, health services and information management, mathematics and biostatistics. Features of the health-care-centric program include theory and practice of data science in the context of medicine and related health care professions, as well as strong industry involvement.

According to Dr. Venkat Gudivada, chair of CET’s Department of Computer Science, the MSDS program will aim to produce data scientists who will be innovators in reducing health care costs and improving quality of care through big data-driven decision making.

“Data science refers to a set of new algorithms and approaches for advancing scientific discoveries and business innovation through big data,” said Gudivada. “The knowledge and skills needed to analyze and interpret big data are quite different from those that are needed for small-scale datasets. Data scientists play a critical role in enabling organizations to improve their products, business processes and services using the data they collect.”

ECU’s Master of Science in Data Science will be an interdisciplinary program with a focus on health care big data. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

The MSDS program will recruit students with an academic background in computing or other quantitative disciplines such as mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry, engineering and epidemiology. Applicants must have a strong undergraduate preparation in mathematical and computational problem-solving. Students from disciplines other than computer science are required to complete two specially designed bridge courses before they begin the program. The program will be delivered using both online and face-to-face instruction. Thirty semester hours are required to earn the degree.

“Our students should be able to progress as high and as far as their ability and motivation will take them,” said Ploehn. “That’s why we’re building more and better graduate and certificate programs, like the new MSME and MSDS degrees.”

All three programs currently are accepting applications.