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A general discussion on the undergraduate course on Strength of Materials

Most departments of Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering have a required course called variably "Strength of Materials", "Introduction to Solid Mechanics", etc.  In most departments, the content of the coure is mainly about static, elastic deformation of rods, shafts, beams and columns.  It might be a good idea to share your thoughts on this course. 

Ying Li's picture

This URL is a website of Tsinghua University's course on  Strength of Materials.

You may find some thing interesting.


Dear Lee 

I find the url can't be accessible outside of tinghua.

could you leave your E-mail or QQ

So that I can communicate with you easily

Mahdi Kazemzadeh's picture


Civil engineering has associated with structures and specially steel structure. The big portion of calculations in designing these structures is buckling theory. This mechanical reaction of elements under compression that occurs for most cylindrical sections limit by serviceability factors. We consider lower value for steel strength or we wont let the column to get into the force that causes buckling.

Please let me know about your ideas, that what are the most significant factors that have impact on buckling? Have you read about any new improvements in this field, please write about that. Thank you.

Mahdi Kazemzadeh

Zhigang Suo's picture

A lot has happened on stability of deformation in the last 100 years.  The topic was intensely studied in connection with lightweight structures in civil and aerospace engineering. 

I recently wrote up some notes on instabilities for section of a graduate class I was teaching.  Some beginning parts of the notes should be accessible to undergraduate students and first-year graduate students. 

Perhaps the most recent comprehensive treatment of the subject is the text by Bazant and Cedolin, published in 1991.  In addition, I've seen many people use comercial codes like ABAQUS to analyze instability problems.

Henry Tan's picture

For students, they just made their first few steps in science; at this stage they normally have finished their basic algebra and calculus courses, with usually just one semester of a general college physics course. Before this, they may have no idea why they have to learn algebra and calculus, how to use the acquired physics knowledge.

The traditional courses focus more on the mathematical treatment to the strength of materials. I believe that physics and mathematics approaches should be balanced when introducing the strength of materials.

How to teach this course? It is very important to know ahead that is this the last course on the mechanics of materials, or the first one, taught to students?

Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Henry: 

To answer your last question, I'm giving you some local backgroud, and would like to learn about situatons in other places.  Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences offers two undergraduate degrees in Engineering:

  • Bachelor of Arts (AB) in Engineering Sciences
  • Bachelor of Science (SB) in Engineering Sciences

The degree requirements are online.  For a given degree, a student selects an area of specialization.  For example, one area is Mechanical and Materials Science and Engineering.  For this area, there are 5 required courses of Engineering Sciences (ES):

  • ES 120.  Introduction to the Mechanics of Solids
  • ES 123.  Introduction to Fluid Mechanics
  • ES 125.  Mechanical Systems
  • ES 181.  Thermodynamics
  • ES 190.  Introduction to Materials Science

Brief descriptions of these courses can be found in the catalogue of courses of instruction.  The student should have studied statics and dynamics in a physics course.  Some students go on to take more advanced courses in Solid Mechanics:

  • ES 128.  Computational Solid and Structural Mechanics
  • ES 240.  Solid Mechanics (first-year graduate course)

We should plan ES 120 as the first and the last course in solid mechanics for majority of students in the area of Mechanical and Materials Sciences and Engineering, as well as in the area of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering.

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