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What does taking AP (honors) courses in high school, graduating in the top five percent of the class, and participating in a variety of service programs and extracurricular activities in high school get a student? The chance to do it all again in college. Sounds like a ton of fun. But that’s exactly what the nation’s top students (especially those interested in engineering) are looking for.

Engineers are problem solvers by nature; they create the technologies of tomorrow. They also become leaders in industry, in their communities, and in government. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens because they are able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them, opportunities like the Engineering Honors Program.

Admission to the program is by invitation only, extended to students who have already been admitted to Notre Dame, have expressed a desire to pursue a career in engineering, and meet the academic requirements of the program. Admission is also limited to 19 full-time entering freshmen each year. These are some of the best and brightest students at the University.

Once admitted, the fun begins. First-year students in the program are required to take special honors sections of both engineering and humanities courses. Although there are no specific course requirements for students after their first year, engineering honors participants must develop and complete an independent research project during their time at Notre Dame. This work can begin as early as their sophomore year. During this project, which must encompass a minimum of two semesters, students work closely with an individual faculty adviser, who guides them in researching and writing a thesis. The thesis must be completed and defended during their senior year.

Honors students have the opportunity to attend special technical seminars — covering topics such as bioengineering, energy, high-performance computing, nanotechnology, wireless computing, and environmental sciences. They also have the chance to interact with visiting scholars and go on field trips, ranging from museum outings to technical tours led by industry professionals and research partners of the University. Every activity in the program is geared to help prepare students for the next step, including admission to graduate school or the submission of applications for graduate fellowships and other scholarship programs, such as Rhodes and Marshall.

It’s a full load, but the group still finds time to wind down and enjoy college life. They barbeque. They go to the beach. They even “kill”; one of their most recent activities was a riveting game of Assassins, because water guns are always fun, and tracking other players is a challenge.

The entire program is a challenge, but one that the students welcome. It provides special opportunities for engineering and scientific research, cultural enrichment, and social interaction. It promotes the whole individual, while encouraging the students to achieve beyond their expectations.

For more information, contact Associate Professor Ken D. Sauer, the director of the Engineering Honors Program, at

Although they couldn’t all make it for the photo, 54 students are enrolled in the Engineering Honors Program. Seven are out of the country as part of the University’s study abroad program: Five are spending the semester in London, one in Perth, Australia, and one student is studying in Oxford, England for the entire year. The honors program, now in its third year, is funded by the Huisking Family Foundation Fund for Excellence. Director Ken D. Sauer, associate professor of electrical engineering, credits the students; John J. Uhran Jr., professor emeritus of computer science and engineering, who founded the program; and Cathy Pieronek, director of academic programs, for its success.