Graduate study in the department is designed to provide students with a systematic understanding of problem-solving approaches, as well as scientific and engineering principles. Programs of study are planned individually in consultation with the faculty. These programs may be directed toward more fundamental engineering science, or more applied engineering design or development, depending on the career goals of the student. All research students in the department are expected to participate in some educational activities.
Cross-specialization work is common in areas such as environmental management, green design and construction information systems. Because of its size, the department limits the areas of research and graduate specialization to those sub-fields where a significant contribution can be made. Faculty and graduate students work closely with those in other units of the College of Engineering and university, including the Institute of Complex Engineered Systems, the Tepper School of Business, the Robotics Institute, the Department of Engineering and Public Policy and the School of Architecture in the College of Fine Arts.
The department strives to provide a supportive environment for its close knit but diverse community. All graduate students are assigned a desk in the department office space. All office have personal or shared computers connected to the campus and worldwide network. Doctoral students are provided a personal computer after completing the doctoral qualifying examination. Numerous athletic opportunities and social events occur.