The University of Kentucky, in collaboration with West Kentucky Community and Technical College, offers studies leading to bachelor’s degrees from UK in mechanical engineering and chemical engineering in Paducah, Kentucky.
The degree programs — created out of a need to retain talent in the area — not only add to the range of opportunities for students, but also meet the regional need for professional engineers in this highly industrialized part of the Commonwealth.
As they celebrate their 25th year, here are 25 things to know about the UK College of Engineering Extended Campus at Paducah:
- The campus is located 255 miles from Lexington.
- There is more than 44,000 square feet of teaching and research facilities.
- Classes are taught in person in Paducah.
- The Paducah Campus offers professional certificates in aerospace engineering, automotive production engineering and environmental engineering. Through collaboration with West Kentucky Community and Technical College, they also offer certificates in welding, machinist and 3D modeler.
- Y. Charles Lu, the H.E. Katterjohn Professor in Engineering, serves as the director of the Paducah Campus.
- It is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.
- More than 500 students graduated from the Paducah Campus, with an estimated direct economic impact on Western Kentucky of more than $25 million annually.
- Two thirds of their graduates remain in the Western Kentucky area.
- The campus opened the $2.6 million Paxton Engineering Research Center (PERC) in 2010, providing outstanding research facilities for faculty members and master's and doctoral students.
- The campus opened the Paducah Engineering Innovation Center (PEIC) in 2022, giving students access to high-quality manufacturing equipment.
- Currently in development, the Paducah Campus will offer a new bachelor’s degree in computer engineering technology.
- More than 96% of their students receive scholarships and grants.
- More than 100 graduate students have been directly, or indirectly, advised by UK Paducah faculty members.
- More than 40% of their students have been first-generation.
- More than 90% of their students participate in experiential learning.
- An impressive 100% of their graduates are hired within three months of graduation.
- Paducah Engineering faculty hold more than 50 national and international leadership positions.
- More than 50 university, regional, national and international awards have been received by UK Paducah faculty.
- A UK Paducah Professor was named to Top 23 innovations in 2023 for breakthrough in hydrogen generation technology.
- The campus is home to seven national and international student professional organizations.
- There are five competitive design teams.
- More than 50% of the engineers in chemical plants in Calvert City, Kentucky, are Paducah Campus graduates.
- In summer 2023, 74% of UK Paducah students completed an internship or research.
- Students have traveled to countries on all six continents to engage in global sustainability research.
- In Fall 2023, UK-Paducah launched Transition to Engineering (T2E) in Western Kentucky. This program has been successful in Central and Eastern Kentucky and allows high school students to earn college credit in engineering.
The college was the brainchild of Steve Polston, who worked as the plant manager of the Lockheed Martin Uranium Enrichment Plant in Paducah in 1992. That same year, he had the idea of starting an engineering college in the area. At the time, Polston noticed he was losing about 20% of his engineering staff to moves related to continuing education necessary for career advancement.
His big idea for an engineering college seemed to be a reasonable solution. However, Polston would be met with adversity in seeing it through. A key player in the successful creation of the college was Thomas Lester, former dean of UK Engineering. With the help of Lester and many others, the UK College of Engineering Extended Campus at Paducah opened its doors a few short years later.
Today, the Paducah Campus is home to 130 undergraduate engineering students. Its mechanical and chemical engineering graduates are mentored and prepared to identify and solve the complex engineering problems they will face in their careers and graduate school.
Soon, the Paducah Campus will also add a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering technology. The program will be another partnership through the UK Pigman College of Engineering and the West Kentucky Community and Technical College.
The last 25 years are only the beginning of the story for UK Paducah. Y. Charles Lu, director of UK College of Engineering Paducah Campus, believes the campus has strong roots, and he looks forward to continued growth of engineering education in Western Kentucky.
“The UK College of Engineering Paducah Campus has been a point of pride for the communities in west Kentucky,” Lu said. “For the next 25 years, we hope that our campus will further its impact on the community, state and beyond. Our vision is to grow the program by offering new academic opportunities to meet the needs of students and industries and by partnering with local communities and organizations to foster innovations and economic development.”
You can learn more about the Paducah Campus here.