Q&A with an engineering professor

outdoor shot of bioengineering building

Every few months, we host a live Q&A with a CSU professor on Instagram, where students, parents, and anyone else interested can tune in and type in questions they have about the academics, CSU, admissions, and beyond. Recently we sat down with Dr. Anthony Marchese, professor and associate dean of engineering, to get an inside look at CSU’s engineering program. And, we enjoyed it so much that we wanted to bring it here for you to check out whenever you like.

Q: What can you do with a degree in engineering?

A: Just about anything! If you look around at everything made by a human being, those things were most likely developed, designed, or made by an engineer. From the car you drive to the bridge you drive over to the chair you sit in to the smartphone in your hand, an engineer (or team of engineers) had a part in that.

Q: How many engineering degree options does CSU offer, and how do you pick one?

A: There are eight engineering programs to choose from, along with multiple concentrations within each major to help you specialize and narrow your focus directly to your interest area and future goals.

Choosing which engineering major shouldn’t be a huge concern right away because we have many resources to help you make a decision. If you aren’t on campus yet, reach out to your admissions counselor and you can talk about what area of engineering interests you most. You can also set up a tour at the Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering and meet a professor, talk to current CSU engineering students, and explore the engineering facilities. Don’t want to wait? Check out our blog, where a CSU engineering student she gave us a little insight on how she chose her major.

Q: What is mechanical engineering and what will I do in that program?

A: Nowadays, engineering systems are so complex that they require many different types of engineers for the same system, problem, or project. For example, the engine in a car was designed by a mechanical engineer, but making it run involved the work of electrical engineers, computer engineers, software engineers, and even chemical engineers. Students who have interests in engines, as well as the building and designing of engines would likely major in mechanical engineering, but there is time in your first year to really explore the right major for you.

Q: Do I need to be good at math and science to be an engineering major?

A: Yes, but it’s not about having natural gifts in those areas; many students in engineering got to the major because they love to build things, design things, and find out how things work. We use science and math to help us design and build those things. Being good at math and science is more about the work you put into it. It is important to build those skills, and utilize the resources available to help you in those areas. Taking as much math and science as you can in high school will help you in the engineering major because you’ll be taking classes like physics and calculus. But it’s not about being a genius; it’s about working hard in those areas to grow.

Q: What kinds of classes will I take in engineering?

A: Your first year, you’ll take some math and science along with your AUCC courses. You’ll also take intro engineering courses your first semester, but the courses you take vary depending on the engineering field you’ll be studying. For example, if you’re a mechanical engineering major, you’ll take MECH 103, which is the intro class for mechanical engineering. Then, as you progress through the major, you’ll take more-specific engineering classes, many that have accompanying labs where you’ll build things, work on complex engines and machines, and more. Your senior year, you’ll do a yearlong senior capstone design project, which will have a real-world problem to solve. The senior capstone is oftentimes funded by companies like Otterbox, New Belgium Brewing, Caterpillar, John Deere, and other companies that partner with CSU engineering.

Q: What kinds of engineering scholarships are available?

A: In addition to CSU’s merit-based and need-based scholarships, there are many engineering-specific scholarships that we give out. One of the most exiting is the Walter Scott Jr. Undergraduate Scholarship, which provides considerable funding for all four years at CSU.

There are also specific scholarships that can be awarded based soley on your interests and activities — many of these are funded by donors or alumni. For example, there might be a scholarship for someone who was an Eagle Scout, or someone who plans to go into a specific area of computer engineering.

There are also scholarships available to students in specific years beyond the first year, so you’ll want to make sure you’re looking at criteria and applying for engineering scholarships each year you’re here.

Q: Are there engineering clubs I can join at CSU?

A: Absolutely. For example, mechanical engineering majors can join the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which is great for professional connections as well as community. There are also many interest-based clubs, like the Ram Rocketry club, where students can design, build and launch rockets.

It’s worth noting that in addition to the academic clubs and societies, CSU also offers hundreds of other clubs, offering everything from rock climbing to sustainability to art to service and far, far beyond.

Q: Can I visit for an engineering tour?

A: Yes! We recommend you do the admissions tour, and you can also tour engineering while you’re here. You’ll get to explore our engineering labs, classrooms, technology, and facilities. Plus, I rarely turn down a personal tour of engineering. If you have any interest in engines, energy or renewable energy, I’m always happy to give you a tour of the CSU Powerhouse Campus and answer any questions you have.

Q: Where have CSU engineering students gone to work after graduation?

A: We have grads working all over the world! It’s a great time to be an engineer. In fact, 95% of our students get jobs in engineering or go onto grad school within six months of graduation.

Some of the companies our graduates are currently working at include aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and Blue Origin. We’ve had student go work for Tesla, too. Locally, we’ve had students go work for New Belgium Brewing, Otterbox, and Woodward, and you’re likely to find a CSU grad at almost any major engineering company within the United States. Right now, we have 60+ CSU alumni at Cummins, a large engines corporation.

Q: Do engineers get paid a lot?

A: In short, yes! The average starting salary for a grad depends on the actual field they go into, but an entry-level salary can be about 65,000 per year. It really does vary depending on the type of engineering degree you receive and where you go, though. Computer engineers oftentimes have a higher starting salary, for example. One of our 2019 chemical engineering grads got a starting salary offer of 100,000 dollars per year.

Want to explore why engineering might be right for you?

Explore some of CSU’s requirements for incoming engineering majors.

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Prairie Smallwood

Prairie Smallwood is a writer and content creator for the Office of Admissions at Colorado State University. She is passionate about education and exploration, and knows that going to college can be both an adventure and an overwhelming experience. She aims to create content that helps students through that journey — the wonderful, the scary, and everything in between.