Some students see that connection early on. When Nicole Lehrer tells people she double majored in biomedical engineering and painting in college, she gets a lot of surprised responses. "The general consensus is, 'Wow, those are really different,' or they'll always refer to the two sides of the brain," Lehrer says.
Now as a graduate student at ASU, Lehrer is at the intersection of design and engineering. Her research focuses on the rehabilitation experience, such as using computer graphics to help stroke patients regain functional use of their arms, she explains.
Another field that is bridging the disciplines of art and engineering is art conservation. "It's a natural fit ... It's physical application of my research," says Garret DeNolf, a materials engineering doctoral student at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
DeNolf worked with researchers at the Art Institute of Chicago to conserve and analyze the paints that Picasso used.
[Check out the U.S. News best fine arts schools rankings.]
Video game design is another field that brings engineers and artists together. Digital gaming is what Arthur Nishimoto studies at University of Illinois—Chicago, home to the Electronic Visualization Laboratory, which is an interdisciplinary graduate research lab focused on art and computer science, according to its website.
At the lab, Nishimoto, who is pursuing an M.S. in computer science, created a 20-foot "virtual canvas," which consists of 18 liquid crystal display (LCD) screens. When users touch the screens with their dry brushes, colors, which they mix on iPad palettes, appear on the screens.
College students who aspire to go to engineering school should consider taking an art class, or courses in other departments, to avoid the stereotype of being a programmer who is always "in front of the computer coding away," Nishimoto says. "Computer science can be a useful tool for multiple disciplines."
While Fasano, the engineering job coach, thinks art training can give engineers a leg up in the job hunt, he says combining engineering and business will ultimately serve them better. "It doesn't hurt to have an artistic or creative side," he says. "If I had to decide between that and an M.B.A., personally, from what I've seen so far, I'd go for the M.B.A. or master's in management."
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