In the past few years, Mines has launched a number of innovative graduate programs focused on emerging technologies. Four of these interdisciplinary programs (Advanced Manufacturing, FEA Professional, Operations Research with Engineering and Space Resources) are led by Mechanical Engineering faculty.

FEA Pro (FEA stands for finite element analysis), led by ME Associate Professor Anthony Petrella, is unique in that it is a fully online professional certificate. The FEA Pro certificate, comprising four 8-week online courses, will launch in the Fall 2020 semester. The courses are offered sequentially – two in the fall semester, two in spring – which makes the certificate achievable in one academic year.

Petrella has had a strong connection to Abaqus, a software suite by Dassault Systèmes for finite element analysis and computer aided engineering, for more than 20 years. This relationship, and his desire to provide more opportunities for professionals and recent graduates to pursue advanced technical training with a strong applied focus, led to the development of the FEA Pro certificate program.

Petrella says the goal of the FEA Pro certificate is not just proficiency, but effectiveness. “Anyone can learn where to click in the software to get an answer,” Petrella said. “What makes FEA Pro unique is that we’re delivering not only proficiency with the software but also the more challenging skills needed to actually be effective using the software to drive real business decisions.”

The skills students learn in FEA Pro are applicable to almost any industry, making the program a valuable asset to recent graduates and working professionals across disciplines and focus areas. Petrella developed the certificate’s four core courses with the assistance of Mines’ Trefny Innovative Instruction Center and newly hired teaching professor Steve Geer, who as an adjunct assisted Petrella in assembling problems and videos for one of the courses. The program was also made possible with startup funds from President Paul Johnson’s Innovation Fund.

For the layperson, finite element analysis is a method for using a computer to estimate internal forces in a part to determine if it will be able to do its intended job without breaking. The image of the benches shows an example of FEA in 3D – and demonstrate a great example of interdisciplinary collaboration in action.

model bench

Crossing FEA with additive manufacturing. Models of a bench were printed on the HP MultiJet Fusion printer in the Advanced Manufacturing Teaching Lab with the FEA model displayed in color, predicting the stress distribution across the bench. Blue indicates low stress and red indicates high stress. The test bench (front) was subjected to loading. The deformation in the green zone and the point of failure in the red zone show the accuracy of the FEA model. Models and photo courtesy of Bradley Jesteadt (’20).

The model bench was printed on the HP MultiJet Fusion printer in the Advanced Manufacturing Teaching Lab by recent ME graduate Bradley Jesteadt. The colors show how much force there is in any given location – blue is low force and red is high force. Petrella explains, “Bradley did an FEA on the little bench and predicted where the forces were highest. Then he made an actual bench and put force on it in the shop, and, sure enough, it broke exactly where the FEA said the forces would be high and cause failure.” FEA can help manufacturers change a part design to make the part stronger.

Petrella also applies FEA in his research in the ME department’s biomechanics group in applications when it would be difficult or impossible to directly measure forces, like in an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) after surgery. “FEA can be used to decide how much exercise you can safely do during rehab so you don’t create forces in your knee that would jeopardize healing,” Petrella explained. In another project he used FEA to evaluate an epinephrine autoinjector design for Bristol-Myers Squibb to estimate how long it takes the autoinjector to deliver the full dose of drug so a user knows how long to hold the injector in place.

diagram of knee

Computational representation of tibiofemoral joint (posterior view). Image credit: Ahmet Erdemir, “Open Knee: Open Source Modeling & Simulation to Enable Scientific Discovery and Clinical Care in Knee Biomechanics,” J Knee Surg. 2016 February; 29(2): 107–116. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1564600. For more information, see

To learn more about the program, visit