Mario Velardi is teaching CE202, Engineering Statics and ME160L, Mechanical Engineering Design I at UNM-Los Alamos during the fall semester. Courtesy photo
As recently announced, the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) is partnering with the University of New Mexico’s Albuquerque campus to expand an existing two-year pre-engineering program to a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) program on the UNM-LA campus. With funding from the New Mexico Consortium, this pilot program will allow students to pursue their pre-engineering associate degree from UNM-LA, and also enroll in upper-division engineering courses that are offered on the Los Alamos campus.
“This is a great way for local students to get a top-notch education without having to leave Los Alamos, which makes it very convenient for people living in this area and those employed at LANL,” said Mario Velardi, Ph.D. who recently joined UNM-LA to coordinate this expansion and to teach mechanical engineering. “Advanced courses will be taught by UNM adjunct faculty in the UNM-LA facilities.”
Classes for the fall 2020 semester at UNM-LA started on August 17, with late registration is open until August 28. Velardi is teaching two courses at the 100-200 level as part of the pre-engineering degree curriculum. There are also two 300 level courses taught by the UNM-School of Engineering in Los Alamos. Because of COVID precautions, Velardi’s classes are completely online, while the 300 level courses are hybrid classes, with both face to face and online instruction. Additionally, several related mathematics and science courses are offered for the fall 2020 semester at UNM-LA.
Students will benefit from Dr. Velardi’s breadth of experience as they move through the program and choose an area of mechanical engineering to focus on. Velardi brings with him extensive research and industry experience in the areas of construction material processing, natural gas distribution systems, and multibody dynamics. He has worked for several large international engineering firms, most recently with Direxa Engineering in Denver, Colorado where he served as a process and proposal engineer.
Velardi’s leap to teaching was driven by his desire to help young people get excited about science generally and engineering specifically.
“My mother is a high school math and physics teacher in Rome, Italy, and growing up, she always presented math and physics in a way that made solving problems much like a game,” explained Velardi. “I was fortunate to have that introduction to STEM but I realize that’s not what most people grow up with and for them, math and physics can seem intimidating. I believe success in STEM is mostly about confidence. When the material is presented well, and good academic support is available as it is here at UNM-LA, students develop confidence in their abilities.”
For those considering a career in engineering, Velardi has some advice: “A degree in mechanical engineering opens hundreds of doors. Not only does the work involve a lot of creativity, problem-solving, and real world applications, but with a BSME you can work almost anywhere. That includes large research labs like LANL.”
In recent years, the role of mechanical engineers (MEs) in research and development and other areas at the Lab has expanded. This new collaboration between UNM-LA and UNM School of Engineering is expected to increase the number of qualified MEs needed to meet local workforce demand. At starting salaries of around $60,000 these entry-level positions provide a great starting point for a rewarding, fulfilling career.
“The work is also just plain fun,” said Velardi. “At UNM-LA, much of a student’s time is spent in the lab designing and manufacturing things. You might start out working with the fundamentals of engineering graphics, producing a model of a mechanical object like a bicycle or a drill using a 3D CAD software. Later, students use their knowledge of material properties and manufacturing techniques to work with lab equipment to actually build something – a tool for example. This involves identifying all the processes required to build something and then seeing how the parameters of a process effect a result and the property of the materials you’re working with. You end up with something tangible which is very rewarding.”
As a native of Italy, Velardi began his own education in mechanical engineering at the University of Rome. After earning his BSME, he received a scholarship to study at New York University where he earned a master’s degree in ME. From there, he took a position as a research assistant at the University of West Virginia, where he also obtained his Ph.D. Working as a member of the prestigious Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions, he focused on engines, fuels, combustion and thermodynamics.
For more information about the BSME degree at UNM-LA, contact Velardi at email@example.com, or send program inquiries to Dr. Irina Alvestad, UNM-LA Associate Dean of Instruction and Mathematics and Engineering Division Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNM-Los Alamos is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities. More information about UNM-LA is available at losalamos.unm.edu.