(TNS) -- The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has unanimously approved the creation of a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in engineering through the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Bloomington.

IU will offer the degrees in intelligent systems engineering beginning with the 2016-17 academic year.

“It will really round out the ability of SoIC and IU to have a full spectrum of computing and science programs that include designing and making physical objects,” said School of Informatics and Computing Dean Bobby Schnabel in an email. “This is crucial both to meet the employment needs of area industry including Crane, Cook, Cummins and many more, and to being able to fully address research opportunities in areas such as robotics, high performance computing, environmental science and engineering, neuroscience and engineering and more.”

The commission voted at its Thursday meeting at Purdue University-Calumet in Hammond, and IU President Michael McRobbie announced the decision during a finance committee meeting with the IU Board of Trustees in Bloomington.

“IU greatly welcomes today’s action by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and very much appreciates the commission’s support for a program in IT-related engineering at IU-Bloomington,” said McRobbie.

The bachelor’s program will offer degree tracks in computer engineering and cyber-physical systems; bioengineering; and molecular and nanoscale engineering; while the doctoral program will allow students to focus on these areas as well as environmental and neuroengineering. The program will center on the engineering and design of small, mobile, personal technologies that integrate big data, computational modeling and intelligent systems into their design.

In April, the IU Board of Trustees approved a resolution to create the program, which would initially launch with the bachelor’s and doctoral programs. A master’s degree program would follow in 2017.

The program would employ 20 to 25 faculty members, mainly hired from outside IU over a three- to four-year period, with partial appointments of current IU faculty. Schnabel said the plan is to have 125 students graduate from the program with bachelor’s degrees, 100 students with master’s degrees and 10 with doctoral degrees each year.

Schnabel said the school will next appoint a group of faculty to lead the development of the program for the coming year and serve as the initial members of the intelligent systems engineering department. They will concentrate on developing the hiring plan for new faculty and overseeing the initial year of hiring, with the goal of hiring between six and eight new engineering faculty. They will also prepare the curriculum to be offered next fall and prepare the concept and proposal for a master’s of science in intelligent systems engineering, for submission to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

“This is a really exciting step for IU,” said Schnabel, “and a novel, modern approach to engineering education and research with the strong blend of engineering and informatics and computing.”

Schnabel will be leaving his post in a couple of months, after serving as a dean for more than eight years. He said while he was delighted to have been a part of the process, it’s good timing for a new dean to come in and concentrate on the development of the new program.

©2015 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.