Princeton Engineering welcomed a record 374 freshman for the Class of 2016, surpassing last year’s record-setting freshman enrollment of 333.
This brings the total number of Princeton students pursuing a bachelor of science in engineering to 1,200 – a 36 percent increase over five years. Nationally, the number of students enrolled in full-time undergraduate engineering programs grew 26 percent during the five years from 2006 to 2011.
Acting Dean Pablo Debenedetti encouraged the incoming freshmen to take advantage of the “very vital and tight connection between research and teaching.”
“This is really etched into our DNA,” he said. “The result of it is that our program combines the best aspects of a research university and a liberal arts college. You will get to meet faculty members at the top of their game in both teaching and in research.”
With 374 students, this year’s engineering class is the largest ever. It also includes the highest number of women, 145. Increasing engineering enrollment has been a trend in recent years; last year’s class was also a record with 333 students.
Although it is difficult to identify a single reason for a growing interest in engineering, Peter Bogucki, the associate dean for undergraduate affairs, said an important factor is the tight integration of the engineering school with the rest of the University.
“You are not isolated in a boutique program,” he said. “Students recognize that engineering is a significant presence at Princeton.”
In his welcoming address on Sept. 10, Debenedetti said this integration was a major strength of engineering at Princeton. He said that many of the challenges society faces today, whether supplying energy or water or the future of megacities, “are at their core technical but not exclusively technical. You can’t solve these problems without dealing with the cultural aspects and without dealing with the social aspects.”
“That requires a seamless integration, to be a successful engineer, with the social sciences and the humanities,” he said. “Princeton is an ideal place for that both because of our small size and because of the very low barriers that we have, by design, for you to take courses in different departments and different programs.”
Students will not select their majors until the end of their freshman spring semester, but department representatives gave the incoming students a brief overview of their areas and highlighted some of their most intriguing work. The freshmen heard about an opportunity to help develop robotics to decrease auto accidents and eventually create a self-driving car. They learned about a power-in-a-box project that delivers energy to remote or disaster-stricken regions, and about opportunities for student entrepreneurs such as the Keller Center’s new eLab program.
“We have a very rigorous curriculum and it can be difficult at times, so hang in there and make good use of our support structures,” Debenedetti said. “We are here to help you succeed.”