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College of Engineering


Richard C. Benson, Dean
Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies:
Ed Henneke
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs: Bevlee A. Watford
Interim Assistant Dean for Administration: Ed Nelson
Assistant Dean for Distance Learning and Computing: Glenda Scales

Norris Hall

Mission of the College

    Virginia Tech is the home of the commonwealth's leading College of Engineering. It is known in Virginia and throughout the nation for the excellence of its programs in engineering education, research, and public service.

    The mission of the College of Engineering is to serve the citizens of Virginia, the nation and the world by developing and transferring engineering knowledge that will improve the quality of life. The vision of the college is to create an educational environment which is recognized as a national leader among engineering colleges at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The goals of the college are to attract high-caliber students and to provide them with a top-quality engineering education in preparation for productive careers; to invest in faculty development to enhance Virginia Tech's reputation as a research university and a leader in graduate education; and to forge new links with industry and government to facilitate economic development within the commonwealth and the nation.

    The excellent reputation of the College of Engineering is verified by several independent rankings. In the latest survey of "America's Best Colleges," U.S. News & World Report ranked Virginia Tech's College of Engineering 19th among undergraduate engineering schools that offer Ph.D.s. According to the survey, seven of the colleges' undergraduate programs were ranked among the top 25 in the nation. For more than a decade, the college has excelled in its research expenditures, remaining in the top 10 percent among U.S. engineering schools.

    Among engineering schools nationwide, the college ranks eighth in number of bachelor's degrees awarded, 14th in master's degrees, and 17th in Ph.D.s. In total number of students enrolled, the College ranks sixth nationally.

    The College of Engineering offers bachelor of science degrees in the following areas, all accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET): Aerospace, Biological Systems, Chemical, Civil/Environmental, Computer, Electrical, Engineering Science and Mechanics, Industrial and Systems, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical, Mining and Minerals, and Ocean. The bachelor of science degree in computer science is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

    Engineers play an important role in modern society. They design and develop new and better materials, products, and processes for households and industries, from tiny semiconductors to huge dams. Engineers are needed across a broad spectrum of industry from the traditional to emerging fields. Engineers must not only satisfy society's demand for improved performance, reliability, and safety of products, they also are expected to supply solutions for environmental and social problems created by new technology.

    Men and women trained in engineering will find many professional outlets. They may join large or small manufacturing industries or they may offer their skills and knowledge as professional consultants. They may work in government or private research laboratories or teach and do research in universities. If the future leads them into other professions (medicine, law, business), their engineering education will provide a sound base. Graduates of the College of Engineering are in high demand. Our student-run EXPO attracts about 300 employers each year, and we are a key recruiting school for over 40 major corporations.

    In providing the best possible education for our students, the College of Engineering seeks to ensure that all engineering graduates (not including computer science) meet the standards put forth by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, as described by the criteria listed here. These criteria state that the engineering graduates have:

    1. an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering;
    2. an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data;
    3. an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs;
    4. an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams;
    5. an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems;
    6. an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility;
    7. an ability to communicate effectively;
    8. the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context;
    9. a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning;
    10. a knowledge of contemporary issues; and
    11. an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.

    Furthermore, each degree granting department in the College has educational objectives for their graduates that exist in addition to these criteria, and are program specific.

    It is essential that engineers, regardless of specialty, be well versed in mathematics, the physical sciences, and the engineering sciences so that they can adapt readily to meet the ever-changing demands of the profession. But professional training is not enough engineers need to have imagination and insight. They must understand the history and traditions of the society in which they live. So also must they be broadly familiar with the social sciences and humanities. Last, but not least, engineers must be able to communicate effectively with higher management and the general public. The college is implementing a program of "writing across the curriculum," in which writing is incorporated as an integral part of many courses, rather than isolated in a few specific courses. Formal oral presentations are also an important part of many of our courses. Engineers who are well educated, not just well trained, will be better equipped to develop scientific knowledge into useful technology.

Innovations of the College of Engineering

    In a move recognized by the National Academy of Engineering for its leadership, the College transformed its Engineering Fundamentals program into the Department of Engineering Education. While Engineering Education will continue to train freshmen in the fundamental principles of engineering, that curriculum has been broadened to accommodate the Department of Computer Science within the College. The basic ideas and principles inherent in the freshman year — such as the scientific method, an introduction to design, an understanding of the engineer’s or technologist’s role and responsibility in modern society, and a first exposure to technical communication — can be imparted in both an “analog” and a “digital” environment. Engineering Education is also developing M.S. and Ph.D. programs to prepare students to teach engineering or technology at any level, from kindergarten to college. The National Science Foundation is supporting these developments through several major grants.

    Virginia Tech engineering undergraduates are fortunate to have a combination of excellent classroom instruction and the opportunity to participate in "hands-on, minds-on" engineering training. Two unique facilities, established by the generosity of College of Engineering alumni, are available to undergraduates. In the Joseph F. Ware, Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory, students design and construct competition projects including SAE Formula race cars, All-Terrain Mini-Baja vehicles, human-powered submarines and land vehicles, radio-controlled aircraft, autonomous land and underwater vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles and solar-powered houses. In the Frith Freshman Engineering Design Laboratory, freshman learn engineering principles by working with a number of mechanisms donated by industry sponsors.

    In 2003 Virginia Tech built a supercomputer that was ranked the third most powerful in the world and is, perhaps, the least expensive terascale computer ever built. Computer scientists and engineers created the supercomputer by tying together 1,100 of Apple’s new G5 desktop computers to achieve top-dollar performance. "System X" cost the university only $5.2 million, a fraction of what most terascale computers cost. As such, this supercomputer should serve as a model that will allow other universities, who are not in the supercomputer game, to own their own facilities. In June 2004, System X received the international award from ComputerWorld in the science category. During the summer of 2004, Virginia Tech rebuilt System X using Xserve G5s.

    Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia are the leaders of a consortium selected by NASA to create the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), a research and education collaboration with a potential value of $379 million in grants over the next 20 years. Other university members of the National Institute of Aerospace Associates consortium are the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and University of Maryland-College Park. The strategic partnership is fostering unique and advanced aerospace research and offers graduate degrees in science and engineering through on-campus and distance-learning courses. The NIA and its campus are located near the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

    In 1984 the Virginia Tech College of Engineering became the first public institution to require freshman students to have desktop computers. Now the computer requirement for Virginia Tech engineering freshmen has changed from a desktop to a laptop to reflect the increased technology needs of students. About two-thirds of students live off campus and spend several hours each week going back and forth from campus to home for computer use. Having a laptop enables students to take their computers to class, group meetings, and study sessions. Network plug-ins and wireless network access are being made available in classrooms and study areas around the campus.

    Tenured or tenure track faculty teach more than 90 percent of all engineering courses at Virginia Tech. Engineering faculty members focus on solving real world problems, and share these experiences in the classroom. The work of the faculty with industry brings modern, up to date knowledge back to the classroom quicker than any textbook. These experiences provide a hands on dimension that results in the superlative quality of engineering teaching for which Virginia Tech is so well known.

    Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University have established a joint school of biomedical engineering and science. The Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in biomedical engineering (BME), as well as opportunities for collaborative research. Currently, instructional and research programs focus on biomechanics, tissue and cell engineering, and bioimaging and signal analysis. Wake Forest has taken the lead in bioimaging and signal processing, while Virginia Tech is leading in the areas of biomechanics and tissue and cell engineering.

Green Engineering

    The university concentration in Green Engineering allows interested students to obtain a recognized concentration in Green Engineering in addition to their primary degrees in the College of Engineering. In order to obtain a university-recognized concentration in Green Engineering, students are required to take 18 credit hours in the concentration area. At least two new Green Engineering core courses have been developed, along with new interdisciplinary effective courses. Furthermore, existing in-major required courses have been modified to include substantial "green content." In order to receive a concentration in Green Engineering, students will be required to distribute their 18 required credit hours as follows: 6 credits in identified Green Engineering core courses; at least 6 hours in interdisciplinary, elective courses identified as containing substantial "green content"; and up to 6 credits in in-major, required courses identified as containing substantial "green content."

    In addition to the environmentally conscious engineering principles which are stressed throughout the college, significant emphasis is found in the Departments of Biological Systems Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Mining and Minerals Engineering. Two departments, Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) and Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), offer more formalized education in this important area. BSE offers a specialty in land and water resources engineering. This curriculum is focused on nonpoint source pollution control, conservation of natural resources, development and implementation of best management practices for protecting surface and groundwater quality, application of information support systems for land-use planning and natural resources management, and waste management. CEE offers an environmental engineering option at the B.S. level. This program includes course work in the areas of contaminated groundwater and soil cleanups, solid and hazardous waste treatment, water and wastewater treatment, air pollution control, water and air quality management, and groundwater/surface water modeling. As noted above, the college also offers two master's level degree programs in environmental areas. A number of scholarships may be available through the Green Engineering Program.

Examples of Accomplishments at the National Level

    The Virginia Tech Autonomous Vehicle Team won first place overall, six out of nine event categories and $12,200 in cash awards during the 12th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicles Competition (IGVC), held at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. The Virginia Tech team, which entered three of the 28 vehicles in the competition, was also the only group from the U.S. to place in any event category. Virginia Tech's "Johnny-5" vehicle placed first overall in the IGVC, and "Gemini" placed third overall. The vehicles were built from scratch for the competition by mechanical engineering students as their senior design project.

    For the third year in a row, a team of Virginia Tech industrial and systems engineering students won first place in the national Material Handling Student Design Competition for their design of an industrial facility. Sponsored by the College-Industry Council on Material Handling Education and Modern Materials Handling magazine, the competition challenges students to solve a case-study facility design problem in only five weeks.

    "Centuria," a single-engine jet aircraft designed by undergraduate engineering students from Virginia Tech and their counterparts at Loughborough University in the U.K., won the Best Overall Award in NASA's 2004 Revolutionary Vehicles and Concepts Competition. The competition, sponsored by the NASA Langley Research Center's Aerospace Vehicle Systems Technology Office and FAA's Hughes Technical Center, challenged students to develop innovative concepts and systems for future aircraft. This marked the second year in a row and the fourth time in the past seven years that Virginia Tech/Loughborough University teams have won first place in NASA-sponsored university design competitions.

    Piloting "Specter," a half-composite, half-human entry, Virginia Tech engineering students set two world records and won two first place prizes during the international Human-Powered Submarine Contest in Escondido, Calif. The team set both the women's and men’s world speed records for the one-pilot, non-propeller-driven submarine category. Both the women’s and men’s speeds were submitted by the International Human-Powered Vehicle Association to Guinness World Records for official designation.

    Virginia Tech engineering students and their autonomous vehicle "Cliff" traveled to California in March 2004 to compete in the world's first Grand Challenge race. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense's research arm, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the Grand Challenge offered $1 million to the team whose vehicle could complete a route of 150 miles, primarily through the Mojave Desert—with no human intervention allowed past the starting line. The Virginia Tech team of about 30 engineering and six geography students was one of only 15 out of the original 106 teams to qualify for the race. No team won the competition. DARPA is offering a prize of $2 million for the October 2005 race, and the Virginia Tech team will be there with a newly developed autonomous vehicle, “Rocky.”

    Computer science student programming teams captured four of the five top places in the 2004 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Mid-Atlantic Regional Programming Contest. Virginia Tech teams placed first, third, fourth, and fifth in the regional competition, among a field of more than 160 university teams. The first place win secured an invitation for the Virginia Tech students to the 2005 international competition in China. They follow in the tradition of previous Hokie teams, who have been invited to the international programming competition 20 times out of the past 22 years — more often than any other university in the world.

    In 2005 the Virginia Tech’s Student Engineers’ Council (SEC) topped the $255,000 marker in giving to the university over the past seven years, making it the most philanthropic council in the country. The SEC generates its funds by hosting a career fair each fall. Engineering Expo, one of the largest career fairs of its kind in the country, is attended by companies whose registration fees the SEC then channels back to the engineering student body. For 2005, the SEC awarded grants to the freshman design program, the undergraduate research fair and an open electronics laboratory.

Major Undergraduate Scholarships

    For the 2004-2005 academic year, about $916,000 was awarded to undergraduate students in the College of Engineering. Funding is provided by 72 endowed scholarships administered by the College and 190 endowments administered throughout the engineering departments. Thirty students who entered the College fall semester 2004 were selected as Dean's Scholars. These new scholarships are open to all incoming engineering freshmen and are awarded based on academic potential, community service, leadership potential, family circumstances and essay quality. This year the College offered 76 new upperclassman and seven continuing Eleanor Davenport Leadership Scholarships, which provide full in-state tuition and fees. The largest sponsor of upper-class scholarships continues to be the Gilbert and Lucille Seay Scholarship Fund, with 132 students receiving a total of $221,875 in scholarship funding.

Additional Facts about the College

    The University Honors Program offers a unique challenge to the student with extraordinary intellectual and creative ability. The program is available to all engineering departments and includes the opportunity for enrollment in accelerated courses, enriched sections, and independent study.

    A five-year Cooperative Education program for qualified students is available in all of the engineering curricula. After at least two qualifying semesters, students may alternate semesters of study on campus with work periods in industry. Participants are required to have a minimum of a 2.0 overall GPA, and students must have earned a 2.0 in the semester prior to any work experience. Individual departments may impose higher GPA restrictions, including ones based on in-major GPA. The co-op options of all programs leading to the bachelor's degree are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.

    Approximately 7,700 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate engineering departments at Virginia Tech. More than 45 percent of the undergraduate students are from out-of-state, primarily from Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. In the entering 2003-2004 freshman class, the average SAT score for the general engineering student was 1268 and the average high school grade point average was 3.7 on a 4.0 scale. Approximately 19 percent of the entering class are female. Another 15 percent ar members of under-represented populations.

    Of the 2002-03 College of Engineering graduates who were employed full-time, (the most recent year for which statistics are known), 91.1 percent were employed in a field related to their major. The average annual salary at the bachelor's level was $42,000.


    All students admitted to the College of Engineering as freshmen are placed in the Department of Engineering Education and are designated as General Engineering students. Upon completion of a set of required freshman-level courses, students with acceptable academic records are eligible for transfer into one of the college's thirteen degree programs. (The exception is that students who are on the Dean's List their first semester may elect to transfer after one semester.) Admission to a degree program is competitive, with departmental restrictions established each year by the college. Students transferring to Virginia Tech from another college or university will be considered for admission to a degree granting engineering program if they have completed all courses required of Virginia Tech engineering freshmen, based on transfer credit evaluation by the Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Other eligible transfer students may be offered admission into the General Engineering program. All freshmen and transfer admission decisions are made by the University Undergraduate Admissions Office.

    The college has a transfer articulation agreement with the Virginia Community College System. VCCS students who complete the Associate Degree in engineering with a minimum 3.0 grade-point-average and who complete a specified list of academic courses are guaranteed admission to the College of Engineering. Not all Virginia Community Colleges offer engineering courses. The Associate Degree in engineering is offered at J. Sargeant Reynolds, Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Tidewater, Thomas Nelson, New River, and Virginia Western Community Colleges. The Associate Degree in science with specialization in engineering is offered at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

    Engineering Technology credits are not accepted for transfer by the College of Engineering.

    Students wishing to transfer into an engineering program from another college or degree program within the university must meet current standards set by the college for each engineering program. Application materials are available in the College of Engineering Academic Affairs office in 212 Hancock Hall.

Required Academic Progress

    Minimum requirements for graduation include the attainment of at least a "C" (2.0 Grade Point Average) average, both overall and in-major. Some departments may have additional requirements or specifications concerning the acceptability of C- or lower grades for in-major courses. Students are expected to sustain progress towards completion of their degree requirements, consulting with their academic advisor regularly.

    In addition to meeting university requirements, the engineering student is expected to attain a GPA (grade point average) of at least 2.0 by the end of the freshman year in order to pursue sophomore and junior level professional courses. The student must maintain that GPA level until the completion of the program. Similar progress is required to reach the 2.0 level in the departmental major. Freshmen may not be able to transfer into departments of their choice for the sophomore year unless their academic records are competitive. Successive semesters with an average GPA less than 2.0, even while maintaining the required minimum GPA, or successive semesters in which the accumulated GPA is progressively reduced, will be considered unsatisfactory and may result in academic suspension. Additional requirements have been established by individual departments.

    Entry into a degree-granting department requires that a student successfully complete all first year required courses. Additional requirements are specific to degree programs and are as follows:

  • Biological Systems Engineering: a student must have an overall GPA of 2.0 or greater
  • Chemical Engineering: a student must have an overall GPA of 2.0 or greater and have completed CHEM 2114 and 2124, or CHEM 2535 and 2545.
  • Computer Engineering: a student must earn a grade of C- or greater in the following courses: ENGE 1024 and 1104, MATH 1114, 1224, 1205 and 1206, ECE 1574 and PHYSICS 2305.
  • Computer Science: a student must earn a grade of C or greater in CS 1705, a C- or better in ENGE 1104 or 1204, and have an overall GPA of 2.3 or greater.
  • Electrical Engineering: a student must earn a grade of C- or greater in the following courses: ENGE 1024 and 1104, MATH 1114, 1224, 1205 and 1206, ECE 1574 and PHYSICS 2305.
  • Industrial and Systems Engineering: a student must have an overall GPA of 2.0 or greater.
  • Mechanical Engineering: a student must have an overall GPA of 2.5 or greater.

Graduation Requirements

    Degree requirements in the college range from 120 to 136 semester hours. Students should see their departmental advisor to determine the exact requirements of their degree. The 2.0 GPA minimum requirement for graduation also applies to all courses attempted in the student's departmental major; substitute non-departmental courses are not included. Where courses have substantial duplication, credit toward graduation will be given for one course only. Up to 2 credits in physical education may be used toward graduation as free elective credit. ESM 4404 and other courses below the academic potential of the engineering student may not be used towards graduation.

    The senior academic year must be completed in residence while enrolled in the major department in the College of Engineering.

    Engineering curricula have uniform minimum requirements in the humanities and social sciences. The 18-credit minimum includes 6 credits of Freshman English, usually completed during the first year, and 12 credits of humanities and social science electives selected from Areas 2 and 3 (6 credits each) of the university core curriculum.

    Although pass/fail courses may be authorized for those who maintain a GPA above 2.0, students should recognize future disadvantages when transferring to other departments or applying for admission to other professional or graduate colleges. Engineering students are expected to take all major department courses on a grade basis. Independent study and undergraduate research courses are available for those who maintain a GPA above 2.0 overall and in their departmental majors; some departments may require a higher GPA.

    The College of Engineering will accept advanced ROTC credit as free elective credit towards graduation. Some departments in engineering may allow the use of selected ROTC courses to meet technical elective requirements. Consult specific departments in the College of Engineering for information.