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College of Engineering Research

  • Image of a plasma thruster
    First-Generation Plasma Thruster

  • Image of Jim Browning
    Jim Browning – Associate Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering

  • Image of Will Hughes working with a woman in the lab
    Conducting Materials Science Research

    Lab manager Natalya Hallstrom and faculty member Will Hughes in the W.M. Keck Foundation NanoEngineering Lab. Materials Science is one of five noted Boise State University research strengths.

Offering Depth & Balance

Student demand has made the Boise State University College of Engineering one of the fastest growing colleges on campus. In 2016, we have approximately 2,600 students enrolled in our degree programs, and the college plays a critical role in pursuing scientific and educational research for the benefit of society, our economy, and environment. This is a college of problem solvers and makers. Here faculty and students explore how to leverage computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering, the science of materials, and civil engineering and construction management expertise to expand basic knowledge, and to build machines, products, roads, and buildings. We also examine the interplay between what we build and the natural environment, and how to optimize system and organizational performance. College educational research has included studies of how to increase interest among young people in science and engineering, remove college teaching obstacles, and close the performance gap between graduating students and first-year workers. To maintain a balanced commitment to high quality research and education, we offer:

Benefits for Both Graduate and Undergraduate Students

As we grow, the college is actively increasing graduate program offerings. At the same time, we serve a large and valued undergraduate population. Therefore, we take a balanced approach to research and education that puts an unshakeable focus on student learning and prioritizes both undergraduate education as well as research faculty and graduate students. Except for a small number of faculty members devoted exclusively to research, all other college faculty commit equally to teaching and research, so students have ongoing opportunities to interact and often to collaborate in classrooms, conferences, publications, and research. We have a long history of providing substantive research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students, and it has proven a boon both to advancing research as well as to keeping students engaged, in school, and well positioned for a range of advanced educational opportunities. In 2011, federally- and state-funded sponsored projects contributed 2.5 million dollars specifically to Boise State student salaries, paying nearly a quarter of these salaries, or approximately 543 mostly undergraduate student researchers. And Boise State student research teams regularly participate in NASA’s highly selective Microgravity university program. Here you can find more about student research with NASA and what some of our graduates are doing now in careers in spaceflight and aviation.

Energized and Current Faculty

By conducting scientific and educational research, and by speaking, writing, attending conferences, and engaging with industry and other community partners, faculty members are much more than content experts in their fields of study. Not only can they help students understand aspects of electrical or biomedical engineering, for example, but as domain participants and leaders, they can bring their energy and enthusiasm to the classroom, greatly enrich what you can find in a textbook, and highlight breaking trends. Just as importantly, they can also help students recognize the value and relevance that engineering brings to addressing the very real problems we face as a nation and a world, and how engineers contribute to our regional and national security and economy.

Funding helps our researchers to do their work. Since opening our doors in 1997, College of Engineering researchers have been awarded grant funding totaling over $30 million. These funding levels have enabled faculty to establish world-class research programs in areas ranging from satellite propulsion to molecular electronics. A variety of public and private sources provide such funding, among them the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, Google, and a host of local and regional partners (we list many recent funding partners on the College of Engineering Honor Roll of Givers page).

Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Research

Interdisciplinary study is a significant aspect of remaining current and enriches both education and research. Faculty members across our seven college departments frequently work together, across campus, and with researchers at other universities and in other countries. For example, more than 20 faculty members from departments in the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences teach in our most recently added doctoral program in Materials Science & Engineering. Faculty also participate as researchers in interdisciplinary centers such as the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, a A research-education partnership between Boise State, the University of Idaho, Idaho State University, private industry, and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). We believe this cross-pollination benefits students and sets realistic expectations for students about how graduates are expected to work in multi-disciplinary settings. You can learn about other service centers, core facilities, and individual laboratory research on the college Center and Lab Directory page.

University Commitment

Boise State demonstrates its commitment to balanced research and education through mechanisms that support all its colleges, among them the Undergraduate Studies unit, and our Division of Research & Economic Development. Undergraduate Studies (1) offers robust student research opportunity and funding information, (2) oversees the Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives to support and engage faculty, students, and research collaborators in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines, and (3) oversees the Center for Teaching and Learning, which provides faculty with rich, ongoing education on how to teach well.

The Division of Research and Economic Development helps the university identify interdisciplinary research opportunities and obtain necessary equipment and facilities. For example, its Distinguished Educator in Residence and former NASA astronaut, Steve Swanson, helps cultivate local and national opportunities. Another example is the June, 2011 opening of the university’s most recent engineering facility, the $22 million dollar Environmental Research Building. This is a multidisciplinary hub housing Civil Engineering, Community and Regional Planning, Geosciences, Political Science, and Public Policy & Administration. Together, faculty from several colleges now work together to support a Western agenda on the environment, transportation, water, land use, and public policy. With a 2015 $25 million gift from the Micron Foundation, a new Center for Materials Research building is also under development.

For More About our Research Strengths

While Boise State supports a wide variety of research, it has identified five university-wide strengths where we are making substantive impacts: Materials Science, Geosciences, Sensors, Public Policy, and Creative Writing. Several of these research strengths directly or indirectly involve the College of Engineering. Our Division of Research & Economic Development provides fact sheets about each.