About Northwestern Engineering
Since 1909, Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering has sought excellence in achieving its two parallel missions: to produce new knowledge and to engage and educate students. Northwestern Engineering fosters a culture in which innovation is not only encouraged, but expected. That culture still thrives today, driving new initiatives, research discoveries, and superior education.
Jump to a Section
- Whole-Brain Engineering
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation
- Global Vision
- Collaboration and Balance
- Facts and Figures
Engineering is an activity grounded in analysis, logic, synthesis, and math—all considered elements of “left-brain” or convergent thinking.
These engineering skills are essential, but to prosper in our rapidly changing world, students need to add another high-level thinking skill: “right-brain” or divergent thinking. “Right-brain” thinking is at the root of intuition, metaphorical thinking, and creativity.
By integrating and encouraging three key areas—design thinking, entrepreneurship, and leadership—we aim to produce whole-brain™ engineers. To this end, we have developed innovative undergraduate and graduate programs and collaborative, dynamic research programs that produce engineers who think and work across disciplines—engineers whose deep technical skills are augmented by creative and humanistic thinking.
We empower our students to change the world for the better in material ways and to lead others to do the same.
Learn more about
Design is an essential skill of whole-brain engineers. Our view of design is broad: it extends seamlessly from research and product design to systems design and the design of services, and it includes such areas as health care systems, financial products, and architecture.
Design thinking is a key pillar of right-brain thinking for engineers at Northwestern. Engineering teaches problem solving, design teaches problem framing. Design thinking is the ability to see and solve the real problem behind the perceived problem. We teach our engineers to study the problem, frame the correct problem, ideate and prototype solutions, then communicate the story and idea behind the solution in meaningful ways.
We focus on human-centered design, taking a unified approach to problem solving that draws from the domains of engineering, social science, and psychology. Our collaborative research program brings together leading faculty graduate students from across the University to advance design research. Our programs extend from project courses and certificates to degree and graduate programs that focus on integrating design in all forms of human endeavor.
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
In this time of rapid change we are interested in how enduring concepts and values intersect with new ideas, leading us to constant progress and innovation at all levels.
You can find entrepreneurship and innovation activities in nearly every corner of Northwestern, ranging from named centers and institutes to student groups and administrative offices. Northwestern Engineering strives to maximize the benefits of entrepreneurship by offering resources and mentorship to motivated researchers and students, and by guiding and informing early interactions with potential licensors.
The creation of companies is a byproduct of what we do at Northwestern Engineering, not the central objective. However, where there is a desire to start a company that allows our innovators to move their own ideas into practice, we encourage it. We follow best practices that lead to more successful startup companies—companies founded by inventors and skilled lab members instead of non-inventors who seek to commercialize the technology of others solely for financial gain.
Leadership is more than being the boss. It’s asking the right questions, working as part of the team, and creating a framework for success that inspires and mobilizes those around you.
At Northwestern Engineering, we teach our students the whole-brain engineering skills they need to lead and innovate throughout their lives. Through our rigorous courses students learn not only technical and creative skills but also how to navigate and stay resilient in the face of difficult challenges.
We provide students with the resources needed to prepare personally and professionally for the person they want to be, and we offer a unique assessment tool that helps students understand how their teamwork and leadership abilities can be improved.
The world is becoming increasingly globalized, and universities are an important part of that trend. More graduates work in other countries and other cultures, more students study abroad, and more faculty seek out the best research collaborators across the globe. The benefits of these global relationships include exposure to different environments or cultures and access to specialized equipment, facilities, and data.
Northwestern Engineering strongly encourages opportunities for engagement in global education and research. Through Global Initiatives, for example, we enable students and faculty to study, work, and participate in research overseas, gaining valuable experience and sharing knowledge across geographic boundaries.
Collaboration and Balance
Northwestern’s historic emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration provides a unique advantage:
- Our campus is built for partnerships among disciplines; the majority of our science departments are clustered within a set of interconnected buildings.
- Northwestern Engineering actively pursues formal collaborations with nearly every school at the University, both on the Chicago and Evanston campuses, and in other strategic locations such as at the San Francisco space, which focuses on the intersection of engineering, computer science, journalism and integrated marketing communications.
- Our faculty lead increasingly interdisciplinary and complex research projects with collaborators around the world, including the nearby Argonne National Laboratory.
As we emphasize both “left-brain” and “right-brain” thinking in our educational approach, we also view balance as an advantage in other areas:
- Our undergraduate and graduate programs are similar in size.
- Our faculty members strike a balance between teaching and research.
- Our students balance learning cutting-edge developments and mastering the fundamentals.
- As a school, we balance large-scale global initiatives with those that target local impact.
In addition, we pay careful attention to our core and peripheral strengths. Core strengths are areas in which we excel today: science and engineering fundamentals, materials, systems, design, and leadership. Peripheral strengths are those that provide unique opportunities and could become future areas of strength. We balance the core areas of today with investments in peripheral areas—either through hiring faculty or enhancing support for emerging areas of research and curricular development.
Facts and Figures
Located on the Evanston campus, Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering has eight academic departments, more than two dozen interdisciplinary research centers and institutes, a range of state-of-the-art facilities, and nationally recognized, award-winning faculty.
- Approximately 1660 undergraduates, 900 master’s degree students, and 860 PhD students
- 181 faculty members including 30 national academy members
- More than 275 labs, centers and affiliate programs involving students in research
- State-of-the-art facilities including: smart classrooms and collaborative meeting spaces, advanced prototyping laboratories, 3D printers and additive manufacturing equipment, a CAM/CAM lab, a mechatronics lab, and more
- Active, successful alumni who have gone on to lead commercial space programs, create start-up companies in healthcare and medicine, and chair departments at other prestigious academic institutions, among other accomplishments