Fire Protection Engineering


Core FPE Program Faculty

K. A. Notarianni, Associate Professor and Department Head; Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University; Fire detection and suppression; high-bay fire protection; fire policy and risk; uncertainty; performance-based design; engineering tools.

N. A. Dembsey, Professor; Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley; Fire properties of materials and protective clothing via bench-top scale experimentation; compartment fire dynamics via residential scale experimentation, evaluation, development and validation of compartment fire models, performance fire codes, engineering design tools, and engineering forensic tools.

B. J. Meacham, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Clark University; risk and public policy, performance-based design, risk concepts in regulation, uncertainty in egress modeling.

M. T. Puchovsky, Professor of Practice; fire engineering design practices, codes and standards development, loss control, life safety code and design, performance-based design and risk analysis, fire investigation and litigation support, fire protection systems.

A. Rangwala, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego; combustion, flame spread on solid fuels and compartment fire modeling, dust explosions, risk assessment of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) transport and storage, industrial fire protection.

A. Simeoni, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., University of Corsica; modeling, simulation and experiments of wildfires, heat and mass transfer, fire fighting and land management.

Associated FPE Program Faculty

L. Albano, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Performance of structural members, elements, and systems at elevated temperatures; structural design for fire conditions; simplified or design office techniques for fire-structure interaction; relationship between building construction systems and fire service safety.

Adjunct FPE Faculty

R. Alpert, Adjunct Professor; Sc.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; combustion gas dynamics, combustion-induced instabilities about blunt-body projectiles, fire dynamics, reduced-scale modeling, enclosure fires; numerical modeling of the interactions between fire flows and sprinkler droplet sprays.

J. Averill, Adjunct Assistant Professor; performance-based codes and economics, human behavior in fires, egress and emergency communications, applications of computer fire models to fire safety engineering problems, fire safety of passenger trains, smoke alarm operability in residential fires and hazard analysis.

D.T. Sheppard, Adjunct Assistant Professor; Fire incident investigation; failure analysis; computer modeling; large-scale and small-scale experimental test programs; fire dynamics; fire origin and cause; courtroom testimony as expert witness.

J. Tubbs, Adjunct Assistant Professor; Consulting, large unique building design, smoke control systems, detection and alarm, egress from fire.

C. Wood, Adjunct Assistant Professor; Licensed attorney, fire protection engineering, expert witness testimony, fire modeling and dynamics. Fire investigation, failure analysis of fires and explosions.

FPE Emeritus

R. W. Fitzgerald, Professor Emeritus; Ph.D., University of Connecticut; structural aspects of fire safety, building analysis and design for fire safety, marine fire safety, building codes, real estate development, fire department operations, risk management.

D. A. Lucht, Director Emeritus; building codes and regulatory reform, building fire safety analysis and design, professional practice.

R. Zalosh, Professor Emeritus, Ph.D., Northeastern University; Fire and explosion hazards associated with flammable gases, liquids, and powders. Fire/explosion protection methods and systems designed to deal with these special hazards. Theoretical, experimental, and risk-based engineering tools for addressing these issues.

Research Interests

WPI is a recognized world leader in a wide range of topics in fire protection engineering and related areas. Research is directed toward both theoretical understandings and the development of practical engineering methods. WPI faculty and their students create new knowledge that informs and shapes regulatory policy, building design, product manufacturing, and product performance standards.

Specific capabilities and interests include: fire and material;, combustion and explosion protection; computer modeling; fire performance of structural systems; fire detection and suppression; fire and smoke dynamics; wildland urban interface fires; regulatory policy, risk, and engineering framework; and firefighter safety and policy.

Programs of Study

Fire protection engineers specialize in applying modern technology to the solution of firesafety problems. The successful fire protection engineer must know something about building construction and industrial processes; must interact with and be somewhat competent in other design professions including architecture and electrical, mechanical, civil and chemical engineering. In addition, the firesafety aspects of human behavior, business, management and public administration are important aspects of practice.

The Department of Fire Protection Engineering serves as a crossroads for bringing together talents from many disciplines to focus on fire and explosion safety problems. The department features formal degree and certificate programs in fire protection engineering, continuing education for the practitioner, and research to uncover new knowledge about fire behavior and fire protection methods.

The fire protection engineering program at WPI adapts previous educational and employment experiences into a cohesive Plan of Study. Consequently, the program is designed to be flexible enough to meet specific and varying student educational objectives. Students can select combinations of major courses, non-major courses, thesis and project topics that will prepare them to proceed in the career directions they desire. The curriculum can be tailored to enhance knowledge and skill in the general practice of fire protection engineering, in fire protection engineering specialties (such as industrial, chemical, energy or power), or in the more theoretical and research-oriented sphere.

Practicing engineers or others already employed and wishing to advance their technical skills may enter the program as part-time students or take off-campus courses via WPI’s Quality Online Courses. The master’s degree may be completed on a part-time basis in less than two years, depending on the number of courses taken each semester.

WPI offers both master’s and doctoral degrees as well as the advanced certificate and graduate certificate in fire protection engineering.

Graduate Certificate

The graduate certificate program in Fire Protection Engineering provides qualified students with an opportunity to further their studies in an advanced field. A completed undergraduate degree in engineering or physical science is the preferred prerequisite for admission. Four courses are selected from a range of offerings in consultation with an academic advisor. Taken together, the courses form a cohesive theme. Options include but are not limited to: Core Concepts in Fire Protection Engineering, Industrial Applications, Hazard and Risk Assessment, Facility and Building Design, Advanced Protection Systems, and Fire Protection Management.

Combined B.S./Master’s Program

High school seniors and engineering students in their first three years can apply for this five-year program. This gives high school graduates and others the opportunity to complete the undergraduate degree in a selected field of engineering and the master’s degree in fire protection engineering in five years. Holders of bachelor of science degrees in the traditional engineering fields and the master’s degree in fire protection engineering enjoy extremely good versatility in the job market.

Master’s Program

The M.S. program is a graduate level program in Fire Protection Engineering and Policy that is structured to be equally effective for full-time or part-time distance learning study. The M.S. program is a high level graduate program designed to refine critical thinking skills necessary for making you an industry leader.

Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. degree in the department of Fire Protection Engineering will focus on a program that produces scholars capable of creating new knowledge for the field. Our Ph.D. graduates will function at a high level no matter where they work or go in the profession.

Admission Requirements

High school graduates applying for the Combined B.S./Master’s Program must meet normal undergraduate admission criteria and submit a two-page essay articulating their interest in the field. Applicants for the master’s or certificate programs should have a B.S. in engineering, engineering technology or the physical sciences. Applicants with no FPE work experience should submit a two-page essay articulating their interest in the field.

Students with science degrees and graduates of some engineering technology disciplines may be required to take selected undergraduate courses to round out their backgrounds.

GRE scores are required for all international students and Ph.D. applicants, and strongly recommended for all others.

Degree Requirements

For the M.S.

The program for a master of science in fire protection engineering is flexible and can be tailored to individual student career goals. The fire protection engineering master’s degree requires 30 semester hours of credit. Both a thesis and non-thesis option are offered. A 9 credit thesis can replace 9 credits of course work. All M.S. students are required to take 9 units of core classes; FPE521, FPE570, FPE553, and at least one Fire Protection Integration course; FPE571 and/or FPE573. The remaining credits 18 credits are chosen by the student and up to 9 credits can be taken outside of the Fire Protection discipline (with academic advisors approval).

For the Ph.D.

The degree of doctor of philosophy is conferred on candidates in recognition of high scientific attainments and the ability to carry on original research. Ph.D. students must complete a minimum of 90 semester hours of graduate work after the bachelor’s degree (or 60 semester hours after the master’s). This includes at least 15 semester hours of fire protection engineering course credits and 30 hours of dissertation research.

Doctoral students must successfully complete the fire protection engineering qualifying examination, a research proposal and public seminar, and the dissertation defense.

Graduate Internships

A unique internship program is available to fire protection engineering students, allowing them to gain important clinical experiences in practical engineering and research environments. Students are able to earn income by alternating work with on-campus classroom and laboratory activities. With departmental permission, students may take courses during the full-time work cycle. For more information, contact the Department of Fire Protection Engineering.

Research Laboratories

Fire Science Laboratory

This laboratory facility supports experimentation in fire dynamics, combustion/ explosion phenomena, detection, and fire and explosion suppression. The Fire Propagation Apparatus, cone calorimeter, infrared imaging system, phase doppler particle analyzer and room calorimeter are also available, with associated gas analysis and data acquisition systems.

The wet lab area supports water-based fire suppression and demonstration projects.

Serving as both a teaching and research facility, the lab accommodates undergraduate projects as well as graduate students in fire protection engineering, mechanical engineering and related disciplines.

Fire Modeling Laboratory

The Fire Modeling Laboratory specializes in computer applications to fire protection engineering and research. Research activities include computational fluid dynamics modeling of building and vehicle fires, flame spread model development, and building egress modeling.

Combustion Laboratory

The WPI Combusion Lab supports studies of fundamental combustion properties as they relate to fire safety. Experimental set-ups are available for the study of selfheating of coal dust; flammable properties of gasoline containers; cross-correlation velocimetry and the laminar burning velocity of flammable dusts.

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