The Rise of Offbeat Engineering Disciplines

By Holly McCarthy

Education is big business in India, and the demand for engineers is on the rise. Globalization saw the disappearance of geographical boundaries and the subsequent entry of world players into the Indian job market saw a recent boom in the number of graduates in the disciplines of computer science, information technology and electronics and communication. But that’s all old-hat now, what with the new demand for engineering courses in offbeat disciplines that were hardly known not so long ago. For the first time since the nascence and extraordinary growth of the software industry, institutions in the country are seeing a decline in the popularity of courses that deal with computers and related technology.

According to data from the Directorate of Technical Education (DTE), the academic year 2007-2008 saw more than a few vacant positions in computer science, information technology, mechanical, civil, electronics and chemical engineering courses, disciplines which are normally the first to be filled up and in great demand. Rather, increased attention has been noticed towards offbeat engineering degrees like those that teach manmade technology, nanotechnology, oil and paints technology, aerospace engineering, petroleum engineering and the like. Five such disciplines that are slowly inching ahead of their run-of-the-mill counterparts are:

Petroleum Engineering: What with rising oil prices and the increasing demand for gasoline, petroleum engineering is a course that’s being sought after by youngsters who’re interested in exploring alternative avenues for the procurement of crude oil and the production of petroleum using innovative technologies and knowledge management principles. The study of petroleum engineering is offered as both graduate and post graduate programs at the Indian School of Mines in Dhanbad, Jharkand and at the Maharashtra Institute of Technology in Pune.

Plastic and Polymer Technology: Another burning issue in today’s environmental upheaval is the use (or misuse) of plastic and its associated products. On offer at institutes like the University of Science and Technology in Kolkatta, this discipline of engineering specializes in different kinds of plastics such as those that are used for medical purposes and automotive designs and those that are biodegradable and can be recycled.

Geological Engineering: Mining and its related aspects form a major part of this discipline which deals particularly with the development, exploration, operation and stability of mines. Geological engineers are involved in both civil and mining tunneling projects, with some of them opting to specialize in the environmental or geotechnical aspects of mining. The best degree in this discipline is on offer at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai.

Fire Engineering: Dealing with the safety facet of fire and the application of engineering and scientific principles in fire protection designs, this engineering discipline is ideal for aspiring fire investigators (who assess why and how a fire started) and fire protection engineers (who are responsible for designing equipment and machines that help prevent and fight fires). On offer at the National Fire Service College in Nagpur, Maharashtra and at the Cochin University of Science and Technology at Kochi, Kerala.

Environmental Engineering: trains future engineers to apply science and engineering principles towards the cause of improving and safeguarding the environment from chemical, biological, thermal, radioactive and mechanical pollutants. Sub categories of this engineering include process engineering, waste reduction and management, waste water treatment, the development of sustainable practices and pollution prevention and clean up. On offer at the College of Engineering in Vishakapatnam and at the Kolhapur Institute of Technology, Kolhapur, Maharashtra.