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Five Fascinating Sub-Disciplines of Mechanical Engineering

As the branch of engineering that includes the design, construction and operation of machinery, mechanical engineering is, unsurprisingly, an umbrella that covers a wide array of sub-disicplines. Because he or she has a firm understanding of the principles of thermodynamics and energy, the mechanical engineer can choose from a smorgasbord of career options when first starting out.

Here are five of the more interesting vocations that fall under the heading of mechanical engineering:

Robotics. Though it’s one of the most obvious sub-disciplines of mechanical engineering, and though a more commonplace field of expertise than in past decades, robotics is by no means dull. Advances in robotics have given us the Shadow Dextrous Hand, a robotic hand comparable in size, shape and range of motion to a human hand. With 24 joints and 40 “muscles,” the SDH can perform operations as delicate as picking up a light bulb.

Biomechatronics. As the field of mechanical engineering concerned with the intersection of mechanized devices and the human body, biomechatronics has many applications, from military to agricultural. Perhaps most importantly, it also includes the development of artifical hearts and ventricular assist devices, which assist or replace major valves in the heart.

Marine Engineering. This branch of mechanical engineering is best for those with sea legs. A mechanical engineer who pursues marine engineering will likely become employed on a seagoing vessel, and charged with its propulsion, lighting, heating and air conditioning, or even sewage disposal. Marine engineers may also be shipbuilders, designing and building the complex systems that keep marine vessels in working order.

Nanotechnology. A favorite topic of science fiction writers, nanotechnologists are mechanical engineers who deal with the fabrication of new devices the size of atoms and molecules. But unlike in science fiction novels and movies, these scientists don’t build swarms of microscopic killer robots; often they design polymers and computer chips. We generally see nanotech’s advances in more mundane places than we might expect – like in suntan lotion and cosmetics.

Acoustical Engineering. These mechanical engineers deal primarily with either the suppression or generation of sound. An acoustical engineer might soundproof a room, or design a concert hall to amplify more sound from the stage than from the audience. They might also work to reduce the level of noise generated by machinery.
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