McMaster University in Canada: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Engineering Education

bridges vol. 15, September 2007 / Institutions & Organizations

by Peter Mascher

McMaster University, located in Hamilton, Ontario, at the western tip of Lake Ontario, has established itself as one of the most research-intensive universities in Canada. At the same time, it is recognized for innovative educational programs and a student-centered approach to learning and discovery. Its Faculty of Engineering is a key contributor to this strong reputation and is nationally and internationally recognized for excellence in research and quality of engineering education. The cornerstones of McMaster's engineering programs are a multidisciplinary approach, a strong integration of research and teaching, and close partnerships with industry.

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A recent addition to the Faculty of Engineering is a new graduate school, the McMaster School for Engineering Practice (MSEP). Created out of a demand for engineers to manage increasingly complex issues, MSEP and its three centers provide a new concept in engineering education. The school recognizes the need for lifelong learning opportunities for engineers and scientists by providing a unique vehicle to enhance career horizons.

MSEP is home to the:

MSEP's partnerships with other Faculties, particularly Business and Social Sciences, academic institutions, both nationally and internationally, government, and industry advance interdisciplinary education and research in engineering practice by providing systematic mechanisms for technology transfer and dissemination of knowledge and research results. To quote Dr. Andrew Hrymak, director of MSEP, "The implementation of technologies must be sensitive to social needs - linking engineering and science with the concepts of public policy and sustainable development."

MSEP's three centers provide a focus for interdisciplinary education and research initiatives through individual master's programs in their respective areas of engineering practice:

The core focus of the master's program in Engineering Entrepreneurship & Innovation (MEEI) within the XCEEi is to promote the commercial success of technological innovation through the development of highly-skilled entrepreneurs. MEEI provides the student with the opportunity to learn necessary skills and practice ways to translate scientific ideas into commercially viable goods and services. The principal objectives are to train a new generation of engineers and scientists how to recognize and develop new technologies and to take the technologies to market; practice industry-proven commercialization processes within an academic environment; and provide business development and network capabilities for private, public, and individual enterprise projects. In 2004, Xerox announced a cash infusion of 1 million Canadian dollars to McMaster toward the construction of the XCEEi. In 2006, Bell Canada announced a $1 million investment in the MEEI program over the next five years.

The DCEPP, through its master's program in Engineering and Public Policy (MEPP) will develop future generations of engineers and applied scientists who are responsive to public and societal issues. MEPP is designed for tomorrow's science and engineering leaders who will have an enhanced understanding of the public policy process and its effects on technological, social, and ecological systems. With safety, efficiency, and environmental sustainability being ever-increasing requirements of engineered products and services, engineers and applied scientists serve as key advisors to policy makers in both the public and private sectors. Recognizing the great need for sustainable solutions to complex social, political, and environmental issues, Dofasco (a major Hamilton-based steel company, recently acquired by Mittal Steel) donated 1 million Canadian dollars in May 2005 to establish Canada's first Centre for Engineering and Public Policy.

The mission of the GMC Centre for Engineering Design is to train future leaders in design and development of industrial systems, products, or software solutions across a wide spectrum of industries. This will be accomplished through master's programs in three areas: Process Systems Design and Operation, Sustainable Infrastructure, and Product Design. These programs provide advanced training in leadership, collaboration, and management skills to lead diverse teams; in product design and innovation; and in engineering disciplines leading to breakthrough design and operation of systems. Recognizing the design capabilities as an important distinguishing competence that will enable Canada to compete successfully in the global economy, General Motors Canada has granted $1 million to McMaster University to found the GMCCED.

All of the master's programs described above are accepting outstanding students from a variety of backgrounds. For further information, please refer to the MSEP Web site at


The author, Peter Mascher, is the associate dean for research and external relations in the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University. He holds a Ph.D. in engineering physics (Technische Physik) from the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), and joined McMaster University in 1989.