In the News

The Future at Fuse: Naval Engineering

January 27, 2023 | by: Teresa M. Donnellan

As part of its commitment to meeting emerging workforce needs, George Mason University’s College of Engineering and Computing is offering a Naval Ship Design Graduate Certificate Program at Mason Square in Arlington. It’s one of 16 classes across seven different departments at Mason Square, where nearly 150 graduate students are enrolled.

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is home to at least five major U.S. Navy laboratories. NAVSEA, for example, has about 15,000 civilian employees, about 9,000 of which are engineers and scientists. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has about 3,000 engineers.

“If Mason is trying to influence those [people] for the sake of the success of the Navy, Mason Square is the perfect place to focus,” said former naval engineer and current adjunct professor Peter Cho, who teaches a core class for the Graduate Certificate in Naval Ship Design. The certificate program was developed by mechanical engineering chair Leigh McCue in collaboration with several naval research experts.

“The Naval Ship Design Graduate Certificate Program provides practicing engineers hands-on experience in ship design and project management through a mixture of synchronous online and hybrid course offerings,” McCue said. “Starting this spring, we opted to base the certificate out of Mason Square. The location, just a mile from the Office of Naval Research, for example, provides unique opportunities to grow this program in support of the future naval workforce.”

The four core courses required to earn the certificate are ME 551: Naval Engineering, ME 552: Fundamentals of Naval Architecture, ME 553: Ship Design Process and Tools, and ME 554: Defense Industry Project Management. Cho’s class, ME 554: Defense Industry Project Management, gives students the skills to process an engineering project from conception to completion.

“Now you understand why we need these systems and how to design and analyze all these techniques you learned,” Cho said of his class. “Lastly, now, how are you going to manage it? How are you going to work with the people? How are you going to connect or engage with your sponsors and the stakeholders around it? Project management is the last step.”

With degrees in electrical, mechanical, and systems engineering, Cho worked as a civilian engineer in the Navy for about 15 years before his boss sent him to earn a master’s in business administration to “inject a business perspective” into his engineering mindset, Cho said. After business school, he gained more responsibility, spending his final 13 years in the industry as a program officer at the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia, overseeing several multimillion-dollar projects involving various defense contractors and hundreds of people. Cho noted that learning about business helped him perform better as a naval researcher.

“I learned how to initiate projects, … how to conduct research and how to measure success, and then finally how to close,” Cho said. “We cannot just drop the ball and say, ‘Hey, you got what you wanted, and I’m going home,’ he explained, adding, “I have to leave lots of documentation on lessons learned, all the publications and briefings, and possible [future] work.”

This final step is especially important in connecting a project to the broader engineering research landscape, Cho said. “No one can achieve a great thing by themselves.”


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