Structural Engineering

Aerospace Biological Civil Geotechnical Mechanical

Graduate Program


The Department of Structural Engineering at the University of California at San Diego offers a unique program that crosses different engineering disciplines, including civil, geotechnical, mechanical, aerospace, biological, and marine/offshore engineering, with a focus on structural design and analysis, structural materials, computational mechanics, and solid mechanics. This broad-based cross-disciplinary structural engineering approach allows not only diversity in the selection of graduate courses but also a diversity of employment opportunities across the engineering spectrum.  

The program is tailored towards the common needs and reliance of different engineering fields on the knowledge and advances in materials engineering, classical structural mechanics theories, computational and numerical analysis tools, experimental structural analysis, and structural health monitoring for applications ranging from nano-structures to large-scale civil infrastructure systems.  While providing training on the fundamentals, the program offers specialization within a chosen area through a sequence of discipline specific courses. In particular, the Structural Engineering program offers the opportunity for further education in one or more of the following five primary focus areas that are intimately tied to the current research activities in the Department:

  1. Earthquake Engineering
  2. Advanced Composites and Aerospace Structural Systems
  3. Geotechnical Engineering
  4. Structural Health Monitoring, Prognosis, and Validated Simulations
  5. Computational Mechanics

Unique education and research opportunities are provided by faculty expertise across a range of specialties in materials and structural systems of different types and scales, and through the specially designed laboratories including the world-renowned Charles Lee Powell Structural Research Laboratories.  This unique facility consists of a set of large-scale testing laboratories where full-scale structural systems ranging from bridges and buildings, ship hulls and deck structures, to aircraft wings and structural systems can be tested using state-of-the-art computer-controlled equipment.  The Structural Systems Laboratory houses a 15-m tall reaction wall and a 37-m long strong floor, while the Structural Components Laboratory has a 9-m tall by 19-m wide strong wall with a 14.3 by 21.3-m strong floor, and the Composites Structures Laboratory has a 9-m tall by 5.5-m wide strong wall with a 14.3 by 7.2-m strong floor.  The facility also includes a high-capacity shake table and a geotechnical laboratory including a centrifuge and soil boxes.  The research facilities also include state-of-the-art nano-materials characterization facilities, polymer and composite characterization and processing laboratories, composites and aerospace structures laboratories, non-destructive evaluation laboratories, structural dynamics laboratory, a unique 6-DOF seismic response modification device test facility, and other unique facilities.  The Englekirk Structural Engineering Center is equipped with the world's first outdoor shake table adjacent to the country's largest soil-structure interaction test facility, allowing researchers to perform dynamic earthquake safety tests on full-scale structural systems. It also houses a blast simulator, which is the world’s first facility designed to study structural response to, and damage caused by, bomb blasts without creating actual explosions.  Besides enabling one-of-a-kind experiments, the laboratory facilities enable the validation of sophisticated design and analysis models, which are subsequently used for design, numerical prediction, and detailed parametric studies.  Thus, a complete systems approach from materials development and large-scale experiments to implementation of sensor networks and development of design recommendations and nonlinear analytical models is typical for research projects in the Department.

Close industrial ties exist between UCSD Structural Engineering faculty and the civil, aerospace, and marine engineering communities. The program is also strengthened by close ties with UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the California Space Institute, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, the Environmental Sciences Initiative, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Department is responsible for a significant portion of the UCSD/LANL Research and Educational Collaboration, a program unique in the Nation that combines UCSD and LANL expertise in specific research areas. These collaborations, in combination with the Powell Structural Research Laboratories, provide a unique research environment for graduate students and faculty alike.


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