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Aerospace Engineering is primarily the analysis and design of flight vehicles: airplanes, gliders, helicopters, and rockets. The three major areas of study comprising Aerospace Engineering are aerodynamics, flight mechanics, and structural mechanics.

Aerodynamics is the study of the flow of air around an aircraft and the forces that this flow produces on the aircraft. Propulsion, the flow of air or other gases through the engine, is usually considered part of aerodynamics.

Flight Mechanics is the study of the flight path or trajectory of an aircraft. It is concerned with determining the maneuverability of the aircraft and how to control the aircraft.

Structural Mechanics is the study of the aircraft structure. It involves designing the structure of an aircraft strong enough to withstand the loads that result from aerodynamic forces and aircraft maneuvers, and also light enough to operate economically.

The applications of these three areas of study are not limited to the design of aircraft. The aerodynamics of cars, trucks, and other ground vehicles are very similar to those of airplanes, and most large car manufacturers operate wind tunnels that are used in the aerodynamic design of ground vehicles. The process of designing an automatic control system for industrial machinery is identical to that of designing an automatic control system for an F-16. The structures of items ranging from barrels to buildings are essentially the same as that of the fuselage and wings of a 747. Indeed, a well-trained aerospace engineer has the capability of working on a large variety of projects, inside and outside the traditional aerospace industry.
Aerospace engineering is both the most specialized and the most diversified of fields. Products and spin-offs from aerospace projects are now used in many households, such as non-stick cookware coatings and freeze-dried foods. Aerospace professionals apply their knowledge to design better aircraft, send a spacecraft to Mars, or design a satellite to predict the weather. The same aerospace professionals may also apply their knowledge to study wind stress on new buildings, to eliminate energy waste in skyscrapers, to design automobiles, high-speed trains and ships, or to aid in artificial heart research. The future of aerospace engineering is as exciting and challenging as its history.

The Program. Engineering is the only major profession that one can enter with a four-year university education. Engineering graduates are qualified to assume entry level positions in industry or government, or to continue formal education at the graduate level. An undergraduate engineering student, regardless of the declared major, is provided a core of basic technical knowledge, a broad exposure to the social sciences and humanities, and a special sequence of engineering-like experiences. This provides the student with an opportunity to develop the ability to:

* Formulate problems based on perceived needs in the world around them
* Develop methods to provide solutions to these problems.
* Understand the basic sciences that provide our fundamental understanding of the physical laws of nature.
* Understand the basic engineering sciences so as to apply them to the solution of practical problems.
* Adapt to new knowledge and new technology.
* Effectively communicate ideas and solutions.

The aerospace engineering student has a special learning opportunity within the aerospace curriculum- the flight-vehicle system. Coursework is taken in the areas of vehicle design, flight mechanics, structural analysis, aerodynamics, propulsion, stability and control, and test engineering. The student often is able to develop the insight necessary to understand the interactions that occur among the various components and subsystems within the total system. The aerospace engineering curriculum produces versatile graduates who have the ability to adapt their skills to new areas.
The Department. In keeping with the university goals, the Aerospace Engineering program at Mississippi State focuses on combining academic work with hands-on experience in state-of-the-art laboratories and in research with faculty members, all of which is reinforced in the classroom. The department is recognized across the Southeast for its student/faculty relationships. The courses are small and informal, which allows more interactions between the student and the faculty member. Students who study Aerospace Engineering at Mississippi State know they will have access to the department's faculty members. Undergraduate involvement with research programs gives students experience and understanding in areas that are not yet covered in textbooks. This experience enhances their value in a competitive job market. The quality and range of faculty research projects present undergraduates with invaluable opportunities not found at most engineering schools around the country.

The Faculty. In order to provide a quality Aerospace Engineering academic program, the Department of Aerospace Engineering maintains an outstanding faculty with a history of excellence in teaching and research. Faculty members have studied at many of the nation's finest universities and are leaders in their respective fields. Many also have substantial industrial and government experience. They are well acquainted with the state-of-the-art technology in their fields.

Student Involvement. The opportunity to develop socially as well as academically is an important aspect of the total experience at Mississippi State University. The university supports some 300 student organizations in which students can participate in order to enhance their college experience. Several organizations that are related to Aerospace Engineering include: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Sigma Gamma Tau (Aerospace Engineering honor society), Tau Beta Pi (national engineering honor society), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
Careers for the Aerospace Engineering graduate cover a diverse range of job opportunities. During the '90s, the industry saw a rebirth in employment opportunities. Well-educated engineers such as those produced by the Aerospace Engineering program at Mississippi State have the capability of working on a large variety of projects, inside and outside of the traditional aerospace industry. Aerospace engineers have the expertise and training sought by industries nationwide to provide guidance on systems and approaches to completing various tasks. Graduates may work in a variety of specialties such as aerodynamics research, applied aerodynamics, wind tunnel testing, structural analysis, propulsion engineering, automatic control development, systems analysis, flight testing, astrodynamics, aircraft or spacecraft design, guidance and control, flight safety, manufacturing liaison, and sales and marketing.

Cooperative Education. The Cooperative Education program at Mississippi State is the 12th largest in the nation with more than 1,100 students enrolled. Through this unique educational program, some Aerospace Engineering students obtain practical on-the-job training along with their academic studies. Participants obtain a minimum of one year or related practical experience in their chosen field of study by alternating semesters of work and school. It is this combination of academic education and practical work experience that allows the co-op student to acquire a total education.

Working for the US Government. The US government is the primary developer and operator of advanced space systems. The Department of Defense and NASA are responsible for developing and applying the advanced technologies needed to maintain America's role as the world leader in the aerospace industry. Often your chances of making a significant contribution to projects of national importance are often greater in government service than in the private sector.

Working for National Laboratories. The Department of Defense has 27 major labs with an annual budget of $7 billion and NASA operates 10 labs with an annual budget of $10 billion and much of the leading aerospace research is conducted at these national laboratories. Additionally, many of these labs have partnerships and joint programs with private companies to develop private-sector applications of aerospace technologies and could provide a stepping stone to working in private industry.

Working in Private Industry. This is what may be considered the "real action" in the aerospace industry. Private companies are the organizations that actually design, build, maintain aircraft, spacecraft, rockets, missiles, and the systems that go into them. However, many private companies are less willing than government agencies to trust new employees with responsibility and you can expect to rise through the ranks less rapidly than you might in government aerospace programs. Additionally, as you advance your career, you will compete with professionals with business and finance background for the top positions, as well as scientists and engineers. Private industry is also more vulnerable to economic ups and downs, in addition to government budgeting.

Working in Academia. Universities, graduate research institutes, and two-year colleges throughout the country need faculty members with expertise and interests in aerospace engineering and teaching.
It is important to start planning your aerospace career studies in high school. If you wait until you have a diploma to begin thinking about your degree you may be too late. For a degree in Aerospace Engineering at Mississippi State, an ACT math score of 27 is encouraged, while not a requirement, our experience is that students who do poorly in math and science in high school will experience difficulties in those subject areas in college as well. To best prepare yourself for entrance into the Aerospace Engineering program the courses that we recommend you take in high school are listed below.

* English - 4 years
* Mathematics - Advanced Algebra/Pre-Calculus, or Calculus I
* Sciences - Biology, Chemistry, & Physics
* History - (including Social Studies) 3 years

If you feel that you are not as strong in math as you should be, or you did not have the opportunity to take advanced math while in high school, you may defer calculus for a semester to take college algebra and trigonometry. Additionally, all students enrolled in chemistry at Mississippi State are required to take a placement exam on the first day of class. This exam determines the students' chemistry background and many students who do get exposed to basic concepts while in high school do not do as well and are subsequently placed in a general chemistry course instead to gain the necessary experience.
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