McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University

Strategic Priorities

In a world of accelerating transformation, the boundaries between science, engineering, technology, and medicine are blurring. Under these dynamic conditions, we face global challenges at a scale never before seen. Engineering plays a critical role in addressing our challenges.  That’s why we are building the McCormick School of Engineering at the great intersection: the intersection of global challenges and the knowledge needed to solve them.

This intersection provides a framework to view the world, and we are making strategic investments on research areas that will drive our progress in the coming years.  These areas themselves intersect, and these focal points connect faculty throughout the school. At the core of our efforts is a commitment to create leaders who thrive at this intersection.


Materials -- the very substance of our universe -- surround us, enable us, and constrain us. We are just now beginning to understand how these materials work at the most basic scale. From manipulating materials at the nanoscale to creating new ones using techniques culled from nature, at McCormick, we work to unlock the power of materials to solve problems across disciplines and open avenues that were previously unimaginable.

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Strategic Area Materials


Our world is increasingly complex and is changing at a rapid pace. The most pressing problems of our time involve vast amounts of information and agents across a dizzying range of domains. Systems research offers a way to understand our world and the many interactions that shape it.

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Strategic Area Systems

Energy and environment

As traditional energy sources diminish, we live in a time where tackling energy and environmental problems requires both finding new sources of energy and increasing the efficiency of our current sources, all while understanding and minimizing the effect on our environment. Finding answers to both problems require insights from every discipline. There are no silver bullets – the challenges we face are intrinsically difficult and require broad vision and a balanced approach.

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 Strategic Area Energy and Environment

Health and wellness

One of the grand challenges of our time is ensuring the health and wellness of all people. The problems we face are broad and complex, requiring new ways of thinking about healthcare, technology, and processes. Multidisciplinary teams of researchers who combine complementary specialties and thinking to study problems at all levels, from molecular changes to complex systems.

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 Strategic Area Health and Wellness

Creating leaders

At McCormick, we educate whole-brain™ leaders who thrive at the intersection of global challenges and the knowledge to solve them.

We foster whole-brain thinking™ through courses such as the freshman-year Engineering Design and Communication sequence, through connections to Northwestern’s strength in the humanities, and through opportunities to conduct research, study abroad, and gain entrepreneurial experiences. We take a comprehensive approach that combines career and personal development. Graduate students have the opportunity to learn essential management skills, in partnership with the Kellogg School of Management. They connect with their peers across disciplines to create a network that extends beyond their domain.

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 Strategic Area Creating Leaders

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