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Dr. Taekwang Ha stands outside by the Aggie Ring statue on campus in his doctoral robes holding his degree. A stadium with the Texas A&M logo is visible in the background.
As part of the dual degree program, Dr. Taekwang Ha graduated with a a doctoral degree in interdisciplinary engineering from Texas A&M and a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. | Image: Courtesy of Dr. Taekwang Ha.
Dr. Taekwang Ha ’23, an international student from South Korea, is the first graduate of the Dual Degree program offered by the Department of Multidisciplinary Engineering at Texas A&M University. As a participant in the program, he received a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and a doctoral degree in interdisciplinary engineering from Texas A&M.
“I am proud of myself for being the first Korean to earn two doctoral degrees from NTNU and Texas A&M,” Ha said. “In addition, I am the first case of a student earning a dual doctoral degree. This is the successful result of international collaboration and close relationships between two departments and two universities.”
Ha has an extensive educational background, beginning with earning a mechanical and aerospace engineering degree at Gyeongsang National University in South Korea in 2005. He went on to earn a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2011.
When choosing a university for his doctoral program, Ha looked for an opportunity that would provide diverse research opportunities alongside experienced faculty and a flexible, interdisciplinary degree plan. He originally came to Texas A&M in 2018 as a mechanical engineering student but switched plans after seeing a job posting as a research assistant for a dual degree program.
“The main reason was that multidisciplinary engineering, unlike the conventional department, offers a very flexible curriculum and programs for interdisciplinary engineering,” Ha said. “This is one of the characteristics and trends in modern society, integrating two or three different areas for technologies. Multidisciplinary engineering, in this sense, is for this non-conventional engineering.”
Through the dual degree program, students are required to satisfy the needs of both degrees. To do so, students attend at least one year at their international university and at least one year at Texas A&M. In Ha’s case, he spent a year in Norway and four years at Texas A&M.
“My family and I feel that those various cultures and life in both countries made us more mature, and we gained a global mindset,” he said. “Thus, this program became not only for me but also my family.”
Through both institutions, he gained hands-on research experiences in his field of study, metal forming — a popular manufacturing process based on plastic deformation. Specifically, he looks at measuring, predicting and controlling spring back in stretch bending processes. In addition to the tube bending research, the deformation behavior and failure of sheet metal and porous polymer were also investigated by multi-scale simulation methods.
After graduating in May, Ha plans to use his degree to obtain a faculty position while trying to evolve global research and collaboration in manufacturing toward Industry 4.0.
Because of this program, he feels he has an edge over other job applicants and engineers due to specializations in his research field and collaborations around the world.
“By earning two Ph.D. degrees, I thought I could get a specialty compared to other graduate students,” Ha said. “Dual doctoral degrees from this program are very advantageous to catch a hiring manager’s attention. In addition, connections are important for research collaboration in academia, and I believe that this program can play a crucial role for those seeking a research or faculty position.”