Mario Velardi teaches CE202, Static Engineering 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). 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 graduate division engineering courses. offered on the Los Alamos campus.
“It’s a great way for local students to get a top notch education without having to leave Los Alamos, making 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 teach mechanical engineering. “The advanced courses will be taught by the adjunct faculty of UNM at the facilities of UNM-LA.”
Classes for the Fall 2020 semester at UNM-LA began August 17, and late registrations are open until August 28. Velardi teaches two 100-200 level courses as part of the pre-engineer program. There are also two 300-level courses offered by the UNM-School of Engineering in Los Alamos. Due to COVID precautions, Velardi’s courses are fully online, while the 300-level courses are hybrid courses, with face-to-face and online courses. Additionally, several math and related science courses are offered for the Fall 2020 semester at UNM-LA.
Students will benefit from Dr. Velardi’s breadth of experience throughout 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 materials processing, natural gas distribution systems and multibody dynamics. He has worked for several large international engineering firms, most recently at Direxa Engineering in Denver, Colorado, where he served as a process and proposal engineer.
Velardi’s leap into education was motivated by his desire to help young people become interested in science in general and engineering in particular.
“My mom 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 problem-solving a game,” said Velardi. “I was lucky enough to have this introduction to STEM, but I realize that it’s not what most people grow up with and to them math and physics can seem intimidating. I believe success in STEM is primarily about trust. When the material is well presented and good academic support is available as is the case here at UNM-LA, students develop confidence in their abilities.
For those considering a career in engineering, Velardi has a tip: “A mechanical engineering degree opens hundreds of doors. Not only does the job involve a lot of creativity, problem solving, and real world applications, but with a BSME you can work almost anywhere. This includes large research laboratories like LANL.
In recent years, the role of mechanical engineers (ME) in research and development and other areas of the laboratory 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 the demand for local labor. With starting salaries of around $ 60,000, these entry-level positions are a great starting point for a rewarding and fulfilling career.
“The job is also just plain fun,” said Velardi. “At UNM-LA, a large portion of a student’s time is spent designing and crafting objects in the lab. You can start working with the fundamentals of graphics engineering, producing a model of a mechanical object like a bicycle or a drill using 3D CAD software. Later, students use their knowledge of material properties and manufacturing techniques to work with laboratory equipment to actually build something – a tool, for example. It involves identifying all of the processes needed to build something, and then seeing how the parameters of a process affect an outcome and the property of the materials you are working with. You end up with something tangible which is very rewarding.
Originally from Italy, Velardi began his own training in mechanical engineering at the University of Rome. After obtaining his BSME, he was awarded a scholarship to study at New York University where he obtained a Masters in ME. From there he worked as a research assistant at the University of West Virginia, where he also obtained his doctorate. As a member of the prestigious Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions, he focused on engines, fuels, combustion and thermodynamics.
For more information on the BSME degree at UNM-LA, contact Velardi at [email protected], or send program inquiries to Dr. Irina Alvestad, Associate Dean of UNM-LA at the teaching and the chair of the mathematics and engineering division at irina @ unm. edu.
UNM-Los Alamos is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable full-branch community college that provides the foundation for transfer, cutting-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities. More information about UNM-LA is available at losalamos.unm.edu.