Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Our Program

Utah State University receives the second highest aerospace research funding nationally and our students have sent more student experiments into space than any institution in the world. Graduate programs emphasize research by the faculty with a high level of student involvement providing enhanced preparation for engineering practice, research and education.

Our Facilities

Experimental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (EFDL)

The EFDL encompasses 3,000 square feet of laboratory space and is equipped with the latest in velocity diagnostics, particle sizing instrumentation, data acquisition equipment, and imaging sys­tems. Major equipment includes two LaVision Stereo, Time-Resolved Particle Image Velocime­try systems, the larger of which consists of two 1-MPixel, 10-bit, 3000-frame-per-second cameras, a 1000 Hz, 20 mJ/pulsed laser, a dedicated, portable, and a 12-node computer cluster. In addition, The Transient Mixed Convection Wind Tunnel (TMCWT) is housed in the EFDL. Funded by a DOE-Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) grant, this unique facility was created specifically for the task of providing flow and thermal validation data for Computation Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for transient and steady mixed convection.

Mechanical Properties Research Laboratory (MePRL)

The MePRL was established with a mission for mechanical properties evaluation and modeling for metals, polymers, and composites based on multiscale experiments and simulations. Two fundamental material models are the foci: 1) Internal State Variable (ISV) based constitutive modeling framework, which processes the capability to capture a history of the materials including plastic deformation, temperature, aging, and irradiations; 2) Physically-based multistage fatigue model, which captures the stochastic material microstructure effects on fatigue damage evolution. The equipment at MePRL includes an in-situ SEM fatigue-grade loading stage and a MTS Landmark servo-hydraulic Axial Material Testing System.

Thermophysical Properties Research Laboratory (TPRL)

Thermophysical properties such as thermal conductivity, thermal diffusivity, heat capacity, and melt viscosity are essential for the development of advanced materials. The property information not only provides necessary input for the calculation and predication of materials performance, but also reveals material structural conditions. A major thrust of the research in TPRL is for fuels and materials in nuclear applications and is closely coordinated with the Idaho National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy. The research topics include a modulated laser thermal wave technique for microscale measurement of thermal properties, technologies for determining thermal conductivity of advanced composite nuclear fuels, and in situ technique for thermal conductivity evaluation. These projects support the DOE Fuel Cycle R&D, Next Generation Nuclear Power (NGNP) program, and DOE Advanced Test Reactor (ATR). Other research thrusts include thermophysical properties in space applications and planetary science, and environmental research. TPRL has close collaborations with USU’s Space Dynamics Lab and Water Research Lab.

Materials Processing and Testing Laboratory (MPTL)

With over 4,000 square feet of lab space, the MPTL houses a complete set of modern materials processing and test equipment, including HAAS 500W Nd,YAG pulsing and continuous wave solid-state laser system fitted with PlasmaCam Computer-numeric controlled 3-axis gantry, and Bay State powder feeder. The Lab has a Gleeble 1500D thermal-mechanical simulator. Other equipment includes a 200-ton capacity tensile testing machine with a computerized data acquisition system, along with micro-hardness, Charpy impact, drop-weight, and Varestraint test machines. The Lab is also equipped with an excellent metallography room with a complete set of sample preparation machines and Zeiss microscopes fitted with a new digital imaging and analysis system. With funded projects from NSF, NASA, and industry, MPTL has developed a significant research and education program in materials processing, thermo-mechanical properties, and microstructure characterization.

Micro/Nano Mechanics Laboratory

The mission of the Micro/Nano laboratory is to explore and investigate damage evolution in material under different types of environments using experimental and modeling techniques. Objectives are to explore effects of the microstructural variation on mechanical properties and reliability and to understand damage and deformation mechanisms at a variety of loading conditions such as high temperature and radiation. We also investigate process-microstructure and process-property relationship of materials. Advanced mechanical testing facilities such as an Instron Micro-tester equipped with high temperature environmental chamber with temperature capacity up to 500°C and cutting edge strain measurement devices such as capacitive gauges with submicron resolution and accuracy allows multi-scale experiments of material under different types of loading and temperatures. The material characterization and microscopy facility available in Micro/Nano mechanics lab facilitates our research in this area.

Buried Structures Test Cells

Both small pipe diameter (up to 2 foot diameter) and large pipe diameter (up to 5 foot diameter with at least one pipe diameter of soil on all sides) test cell facilities have allowed us to become a leader in pipe research testing for the last 30 years. The test cells’ hydraulic rams are capable of exerting pressure up to 16,000 and 20,000 lb/square foot, respectively. Testing facilities provide continuous readings for strain measurements, hydraulic cylinder pressure, pressure gages around the pipe, and vertical and horizontal deflection. We have performed tests in the field and in the laboratory using various soil types as well as a myriad of pipe materials and dimensions. We have a history of testing and research for both flexible and rigid pipe.

Energy Lab (elab)

Though not specifically housed in MAE, department faculty play a major role in the lab’s mission, which is to lead “transformational” R&D that helps free America from its addiction to foreign oil, energy price spikes and supply disruptions, and polluted air within a generation. Utah State University started elab in 2007 with the purpose of assembling interdisciplinary research teams that crosscut multiple scientific and engineering disciplines both at the University and at partnering institutions.  With an anchoring facility on USU’s Innovation Campus and satellite labs across the remainder of USU, elab seeks to develop solutions to America’s most intractable energy problems through scientific and technological innovation. The lab provides a cohesive framework permitting faculty, students, and partnering institutions to focus on contemporary energy-related research issues.  The lab’s first initiative is focused on developing enabling technologies leading to a new class of algal biofuels. The initiative is underpinned by a 5 year, $6.5 million grant from the State of Utah.

Solid Mechanics and Structures Lab (SMSL)

The mission of SMSL is to establish and advocate a new paradigm for multiphysics modeling of composite and smart materials and structures and advance the corresponding industrial practice through integrated research and education. SMSL researchers not only carry out fundamental research in structural mechanics and micromechanics, but also implement the research results in computational tools to accelerate technology transfer from academic research to industry. Several codes developed by SMSL researchers are used extensively throughout the world by many academic institutes, companies, and government labs. Some of the codes are becoming the tool of choice in their corresponding industry. Although SMSL’s research is highly theoretical in nature, it is closely related with current industry need. Students trained in SMSL will not only learn needed skills for a decent job placement in industry but will also be equipped with necessary research skills to be an independent and creative researcher.

Our Faculty

See our faculty directory and research interests.

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PDRF Perks

  • Four-year fellowship
  • $10,000 stipend (each year for four years)
  • Full-tuition award (each year for four years)
  • Departmental Assistantship
  • Health insurance
  • Enrollment in Research Certification
  • Exclusive socials, special guests, and trainings
  • One-on-one support from the Vice President

PDRF Application Requirements

Please contact Joan Rudd at with your questions.

  • Meet all School of Graduate Studies requirements for general admission to USU
  • Have at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA
  • Apply to the Ph.D. program by February 28 the year you plan to enter