LeTourneau University now offers one of only two MS in Engineering programs in materials joining engineering in the nation. Continuing an excellent tradition of applied undergraduate research (with $1.8 million of funding in the past decade, as well as six peer-reviewed papers, 18 conference proceedings and 25 technical presentations), LETU materials joining graduate students participate in projects sponsored by the energy, electronic and defense industries in the only stand-alone, state-of-the-art materials joining laboratory in the nation. Inside, welding process and research equipment valued at approximately $1 million includes a scanning electron microscope, a Gleeble 1500, laser welding systems, and a metallurgical lab. Specific topics of study include unique applications of COMSOL multi-physics simulation software, thermomechanical simulations of liquid-solid metallic interfaces, waste heat recovery using Bismuth- and Lead Telluride P-N welded modules, and transient phenomena in high-frequency heating of metallic interfaces.
Materials Joining Engineering and topics related to MJE research mostly are taught at the graduate level. Examples of institutions that offer MSc/PhDs include Ohio State, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic University, Colorado School of Mines, and others. LeTourneau University is unique in its ABET/TAC accreditation for both a four year engineering program and an engineering technology program. The LETU program has also been known to emphasize a “project-based” approach to teaching Welding Engineering. The founder, R. G. LeTourneau, promoted welding as advanced and economical manufacturing technology, and used it in construction of his earthmoving equipment and offshore drilling platforms. In 2005, the program was renamed Materials Joining Engineering to include polymer, ceramic, and composite joining.
How does research performed by undergraduates differ from graduate research? In two essential ways: professional preparation and actual time spent on doing work with minimal supervision. Undergraduates are generally less prepared than graduates for research because they have not taken enough classes and typically are less mature. Undergraduates also do not typically benefit from 50% release time from their studies and can only work evenings, weekends, and during summer months. On the positive side, undergraduates are enthusiastic, highly motivated, and creative, bringing fresh approaches to solving problems.