Study Mechanical Engineering in the Netherlands
Why study mechanical engineering in the Netherlands? There is no one simply answer to this question. When choosing a profession almost all of us have different objectives. Below is a list of reasons why someone may choose a career in mechanical engineering, though this list is very general, and is applicable for many other professions.
- Variety of career options;
- Challenging work;
- Intellectual development;
- Benefit Society;
- Financial security;
- Professional environment;
- Technological and scientific environment;
- Creative thinking.
The good thing about becoming a mechanical engineer is that you can concentrate on whichever objective is most important to you, be it creative thinking or benefiting society and often they can be combined. But studying mechanical engineering will take a lot of determination. Depending on which level you choose to study at, studying to become a mechanical engineer may take you between 4 and 10 years, starting from master to PHD.
If you haven’t been scared away yet, then read on!
Here are a few examples of why it is a good choice to study mechanical engineering in the Netherlands. We can safely say that a mechanical engineer has been involved for almost all man-made things somewhere down the line. This is because we have made machines to support us in our tasks and often to make these tasks more economical. When you take a look at bread for example, we find machines all along the way from the corn in the field to the shelves in the supermarket. But also when we look at medical or drug research, there are machines that test cell cultures and allow parallel testing of many samples, enabling components to be tested over a broader field in a shorter time. Further possibilities are expected from the lab on chip technology, where also important input is expected from the mechanical engineer; think fluid flow and mixing of fluids. The opportunities are limitless…
A career in mechanical engineering can be daunting and at first glance, there are many easier options. There are more men than women in this profession, but you shouldn’t let this put you off and the numbers vary throughout Europe. The first prerequisite to studying mechanical engineering is good grades in math and science.
And then there is the question of where to do the study. Given the harmonisation of studies throughout Europe this opens the possibility to do your bachelors at one place and to continue elsewhere with your masters. This is nice as most of us discover a passion for a specific area later in the study. So after your bachelor you can then switch to the right college for your chosen field of interest.
You should consider studying abroad. Learning and understanding more about foreign cultures and languages will give you an edge when working with other people from abroad.
Now let me tell you a little about studying mechanical engineering in the Netherlands.
There are basically two options, the Hogeschool or the University. The Hogeschool is a 4-year bachelor education, which is more practically orientated. You will find a Hogeschool in each region in the Netherlands. Then there are 3 technical universities, Delft, Eindhoven and Enschede. One serious complication for foreign students is that most courses are in Dutch; courses in English are more an exception. However, all three universities have a strong program in the field of precision engineering. This is related to the industrial interest in this array, think of companies such as Philips, ASML (wafer steppers), Singulus (optical disc mastering), OCE (copiers), FEI electron microscopes and several small companies and consultancy firms. Enschede’s speciality is the work in the field of MEMS, in short, constructing mechanisms mainly with the same technology which is also used in the chip industry, with the aim to miniaturise mechanisms and processes. Think of the development of the lab on chip, miniature sensors (airbag). This is only a small number of options you can choose from when thinking about studying mechanical engineering in the Netherlands.
Information about the technical universities can be found at www.3tu.nl, there is no general site for the Hogescholen, you must look these up in a search engine.
How to combine mechanical engineering with other interests?
Preferring the research side of mechanical engineering, I found great possibilities in the institutes working on particle physics. Here is an example of how a mechanical engineer can work in collaboration with the particle physics community:
Atlas, CMS, LHCb and Alice are a new generation of particle physics experiments, for these experiments a new particle accelerator is being constructed, the LHC. All of this is being constructed by an international collaboration of physicists and engineers at the world’s largest laboratory CERN. (See www.cern.ch) This offers the mechanical engineer numerous interesting challenges. In the detectors of the experiments mechanics is an unavoidable evil, mechanics is needed to physically build the detectors but the material needed for the construction interferes with the particle detection, thus challenging the engineers to use the minimum possible amount of material to provide the mechanical functions. To enable this all kinds of special things are being done. Special carbon fibre structures, special productions processes for machining of structure, as forces in conventional processes are too high, special alloys to allow pipes in cooling circuits to be made with a wall thickness of 40 μm (half the thickness of a hair). For the accelerator consisting of a circle with a circumferences of 27 km consisting mainly out of magnets one of the challenges is the quality insurance, for example for the welds in the cooling circuit (He 1.8 K) zero error is needed to allow operation. Or just the assembly of unusual structures shown on the picture is the first of 2 Atlas End Cap magnets.
Mechanical engineering offers you endless possibilities; it is up to you to make what you wish out of it.
Jarl Buskop, project engineer CERN / NIKHEF