Just finished visiting six colleges in the Midwest. Here is my “aha moment” from the University of Chicago.
UChicago is for the curious and academically-minded student and is ranked #4 nationally by US News, but it is not a school that comes to mind for the engineering student. Aha! No longer. The university’s first-ever undergraduate engineering program is now being offered through the Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME).
Economics is well ensconced as the most popular major. “You can’t come to UChicago and NOT do econ” the adage goes. Surprisingly, Biology is next in popularity. No surprise, Political Science follows closely behind Biology, but Math & Statistics is just a few students away in rank. My take away is that a student interested in STEM can feel totally at home at the University of Chicago, particularly if their interest deals with a field of biology. Note: most of these numbers are from the Sept 23, 2013 edition of The Chicago Maroon (student newspaper).
A little research tells us that IME uses “a new approach to engineering research and education, one that emphasizes the development of solutions to the technological challenges society faces based on molecular-level research”. (1) “We’re really trying to do something that transcends traditional engineering disciplines. You might call it a liberal arts approach to engineering education.” (2) That all sounds very much like UChicago.
True to a liberal arts school, UChicago believes in breadth of learning and requires a core curriculum (8 disciplines in which you must take classes before graduating). Coursework is essentially divided 1/3 Core, 1/3 Major, 1/3 Other. Research is easily accessible at UChicago. According to our tour guide “there are more positions than undergrads to fill them.” This makes sense when considering the fact that the grad to undergrad ratio is 2:1.
Beyond academics, UChicago is regularly in the top 25 of D3 sports and there are significant performing arts on campus. You will find little physical sense of campus identity -- UChicago is definitely an urban environment. Hyde Park is a safe neighborhood of Chicago just seven miles from downtown.
An interesting tidbit regarding your application: Don’t feel pressure to find a junior or senior teacher for your letter of rec. And, do not use a senior teacher who only knows you for a few weeks if applying early. Feel free to use a teacher from your freshman year if they know you well.
Consider the University of Chicago if you are captivated by Molecular Engineering and/or the breadth of liberal arts education and thrive in an urban environment.