Engineering student working on computer

My Experience Studying Engineering at an Illinois Liberal Arts College

Aug 21, 2018

Over the past three years, I have seen great things develop here at North Central College. From the moment I stepped foot on campus as a freshman I witnessed the construction of the Dr. Myron Wentz Science Center. What started as a hole in the ground in the middle of campus became home of the new engineering programs along with all of my fellow scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists at our liberal arts college. I am proud to say I welcomed the new engineering director, Dr. Frank Harwath, to our campus here in Illinois. With decades of industry and entrepreneurial experience, I have no doubt that he will lead students to exciting and fulfilling careers in various engineering fields.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to take Dr. Harwath’s first materials science and engineering class, but it was sadly the last engineering class I would take while at North Central College. As I write this, I am preparing to transfer to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to study materials science and engineering. It’s a part of North Central’s 3-2 engineering program where students study physics or chemistry for three years and transfer to an ABET accredited engineering program at another university for two more years.

I made the right choice for my educational track coming to North Central, a liberal arts college, to study physics because it gave me ample time to decide which engineering field was right for me or if I wanted to pursue physics further. I wanted to study aerospace engineering for the longest time but taking engineering courses like statics and dynamics, thermodynamics and Dr. Harwath’s materials course helped me figure out that materials engineering was the discipline that best fit my interests.

While North Central offers three complete engineering programs—computer engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering—the College allows you to pursue numerous other engineering disciplines through their partnership programs with other well-known universities. My courses transferred easily to UIUC. With my background in physics and credits in a few introductory engineering courses, I fulfilled all of the general engineering requirements—along with a couple of technical electives—so I can strictly focus on the materials engineering curriculum.

North Central’s engineering programs offer students great opportunities for internship and research experience. While I was studying physics, I went to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and worked on the g-2 experiment. It’s fantastic knowing that your professors are directly connected to national labs and private industry, making these opportunities more readily available to students. I think that the College’s accredited program will open a lot more doors in various engineering disciplines for students studying both physics and engineering.

Jake Harper



 Jake Harper '18, physics