College of Engineering

Richard C. Benson, Dean
Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies:
Ed Henneke
Acting Associate Dean for Academic Affairs: Michael Deisenroth
Assistant Dean for Administration, and Chief of Staff: Ed Nelson
Associate Dean for Distance Learning and Computing: Glenda Scales


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 offer high quality support for our stakeholders in order to provide a successful experience in the engineering education pursuits of our customers. The vision of the college is to foster strong working relationships between faculty, student and industry partners that will ultimately bring research opportunities through engineering educational offerings. 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 14th among undergraduate engineering schools that offer Ph.D.s. According to the survey, eight 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 9th in number of bachelor's degrees awarded, 13th in master's degrees, and 18th in Ph.D.s. The college is among the five largest schools of engineering in the country.

    The College of Engineering offers bachelor of science degrees in the following areas: 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. All of the programs are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, 111 Market Place, Suite 1050, Baltimore, MD 21202-4012, telephone: (410) 347-7700. The bachelor of science degree in Computer Science is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, 111 Market Place, Suite 1050, Baltimore, MD 21202-4012, telephone: (410) 347-7700.

    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 within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability;
    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, economic, environmental, 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. All departments within the college are implementing programs to ensure that every graduate is able to effectively use a variety of spoken, visual and written communication strategies which are necessary for success as a student, for employment, and for life as a responsible citizen. Additional emphasis is being placed in freshmen engineering classes to emphasize the importance of communications in engineering analysis and design. 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.

    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 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.

    The Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) has emerged as a vital vehicle that presents a strong link to economic development for the entire Commonwealth. Led by Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, ICTAS presents a case for advancement of humankind through collaborative research, and it represents a strong link between all of the colleges of engineering across the Commonwealth. For the undergraduate, ICTAS will provide opportunities for research employment.

    ICTAS incorporates the common features of Organized Research Units (ORUs) that have produced strong economic growth around highly ranked universities. At Virginia Tech, we recognize that a university-affiliated ORU is more than a traditional research center. It must allow for, and encourage, a seamless path from fundamental research, through applied research and development, to technology transfer - not only by publications but also through the licensing of intellectual property, the initiation of new companies, student involvement, and technical assistance to Virginia companies. At Virginia Tech, the common features emerged for the ORUs of ICTAS include: the clustering of synergistic research groups; teaming of researchers with science and engineering backgrounds; a breadth of activities that bridges periods of transition in research emphasis; the employment of full-time researchers and support personnel but with strong linkages to academic units through faculty and student involvement; and an initial investment and financial structure that allows the research unit to become not only self-sustaining but a provider of revenue to the university.

    It has always been the philosophy of Virginia Tech's College of Engineering to get the right technology in the hands of our students. This reasoning fostered our pioneering decision in 1984 to become the first large public university to require our entering engineering freshmen to purchase a PC. In 2002, the time was right for the College of Engineering to switch the requirement to a notebook. Today, in order to provide the opportunity for our engineering students to continue their education at the cutting edge of technology, we are moving to the Convertible Tablet PC. Use of this device in and outside of class will provide our students with experiences that they will use in the future.

    The Convertible Tablet PC is a powerful and fully functional notebook computer with the added advantage of incorporating hand writing capability. The enhancement of this computer system allows students to use digital ink for taking notes, drawing diagrams as part of the notes or homework assignments; annotating faculty PowerPoint slides or other electronic files and easily writing mathematical equations. Additionally, students will be able to use digital-ink enabled collaboration software to support learning activities in and outside of class. By having all of their information electronically in one place, students will have a tool to support them with organizing their assignments and time as well as collaborating electronically with their peers.

    The Tablets will be used in engineering classes and incoming freshmen can expect to use their Tablets in their first year courses, such as EngE 1024, 1104 and 1114 as well as in many upper division classes. Formerly a "computer requirement", we now view this as a "technology requirement". We group the computer, software and any other tools necessary as part of an integrated requirement. Through this program we know that the students will benefit from their experience.

    The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved at its Spring, 2006 meeting the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, enhancing Virginia Tech's recognized strong position of national leadership in construction education and research. The primary focus of the new school of construction is on values-based leadership in the construction industry. The school combines the strengths of two excellent programs, the Department of Building Construction in the College of Architecture, and the Construction Management Program in the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, to establish a new standard for construction education and research.

    The School of Construction provides undergraduates and graduates more choices for pursuing construction education. It is anticipated that an accredited undergraduate degree in construction engineering and management will be created to complement the existing degree program in building construction and in civil and environmental engineering. The school will work with faculty from multiple departments to provide students with additional opportunities to pursue concentrations, minors, or support courses related to construction.

Green Engineering

    Virginia Tech was one of the first universities to formally consider the connection between engineering practice and environmental stewardship from an interdisciplinary perspective. The Green Engineering Program was created in 1995 and serves all departments within the College of Engineering.

    This program combines environmentally conscious attitudes, values, and principles with science, technology, and engineering practice and focuses this interdisciplinary approach toward improving local and global environmental quality. Based on engineering fundamentals, green engineering analyzes the design of products, processes, and systems to minimize the life cycle environmental impacts, from the initial extraction of raw materials to the energy consumption and waste production during manufacturing to the ultimate disposal of materials that cannot be reused or recycled.

    The Green Engineering Program works with students, faculty, and the university administration to provide educational and research opportunities with regard to both the environmental impacts and the environmental solutions that can result from engineering practice.

    A university-recognized concentration allows interested students to obtain a concentration in Green Engineering in addition to their primary degree(s) in the College of Engineering. To obtain this concentration, students are required to take 18 credit hours in the concentration area as follows: 6 credits in the two core courses – Introduction to Green Engineering and Environmental Life Cycle Analysis; 6 credits in interdisciplinary elective courses; and 6 credits in disciplinary electives within the students’ major. Detailed lists of the courses which meet the concentration requirements can be found in the Green Engineering website at

Examples of Accomplishments at the National Level

    The Virginia Tech International Aircraft Design Team, a group of 15 engineering students at Virginia Tech working with 11 engineering students at Loughborough University in England, won first prize in the 2006 NASA University Design Competition's Noise Reduction Challenge. The Virginia Tech team, made up of seniors from aerospace engineering and industrial and systems engineering and three engineering freshmen, worked throughout the year with students from the Loughborough Aeronautical Engineering program to design a low noise, amphibian aircraft that could be certified under the new Light Sport Aircraft classification recently established by the Federal Aviation Administration.

    The Virginia Tech Autonomous Vehicle Team swept the 2005 international Intelligent Ground Vehicles Competition (IGVC), placing first, second and third and winning eight out of nine event categories, along with $15,000 in prizes. Dominating the IGVC is becoming a tradition for the Virginia Tech team, which in 2004 placed best overall, won six of nine categories and was the only group from the U.S. to place in any category.

    Achieving remarkable success as first-time competitors, the Virginia Tech Aerial Robotics Team won first place overall in the 2005 International Aerial Robotics Competition held at Fort Benning, Georgia. The team also won first place in the technical presentation portion of the competition and third place in the design category. This was the 15th year of the competition, which is the longest running and perhaps the most difficult of all the autonomous ground-or-air student competitions.

    The Virginia Tech chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) carried away seven out of eight top awards - including one for the design of a fishing apparatus for a quadriplegic - during the society's District F student conference hosted by the University of Tennessee. The Virginia Tech chapter placed first in the Student Design Competition with "Hokie Hooker,"
    their version of a cost-effective, reliable apparatus that would enable a quadriplegic to cast a fishing lure accurately, retrieve it, make additional casts, and reel in a weight simulating a fish on at least one cast.

    The Virginia Tech Student Engineers' Council (SEC), the most philanthropic organization of its kind in the nation, has contributed close to $300,000 over the past eight years in support of the College of Engineering's undergraduate programs. This year, SEC members voted to contribute $7,386 to the Mechatronics Experiment in Engineering Exploration and $12,615 to the Joseph F. Ware, Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory. The SEC earns the money it donates to the college by hosting the Engineering Expo career fair each year. The next expo is set for Sept. 19-20 at Virginia Tech.

    Unique design ideas won First Place in Innovation for Virginia Tech aerospace and ocean engineering students during the 2005 International Human Powered Submarine Races at the Naval Surface Warfare Center's model basin in Carderock, Md. The team's submarine, Phantom 5, was loaded with innovations, including separate top hatches for pilot and equipment, a linear pedal gear box, and a steering system that can be controlled by the pilot or by an on-board computer.

    Michael Willemann, a senior in materials science and engineering and a University Honors Program student, received a Fulbright Scholarship for graduate studies in Germany. Sherri Cook, a sophomore in civil and environmental engineering and a University Honors Program student, was one of 80 students chosen nationally to receive a Morris K. Udall Undergraduate Scholarship for the 2006-2007 academic year.

Major Undergraduate Scholarships

    For the 2005-2006 academic year, about $1,000,000 was awarded to undergraduate students in the College of Engineering. Funding is provided by 65 endowed scholarships administered by the College and 119 endowments administered throughout the engineering departments. Fifty-three students who entered the College Fall semester 2005 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 eight new freshman 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 112 students receiving a total of $148,725 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 7,250 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate engineering departments at Virginia Tech. More than 42 percent of the undergraduate students are from out-of-state, primarily from Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. In the entering 2005-2006 freshman class, the average SAT score for the general engineering student was 1273 and the average high school grade point average was 3.8 on a 4.0 scale. Approximately 19 percent of the entering class are female. Another 15 percent are members of under-represented populations.

    Of the 2004-2005 College of Engineering graduates who were employed full-time, (the most recent year for which statistics are known), 90.6 percent were employed in a field related to their major. The average annual salary at the bachelor's level was $50,000.


    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 Curriculum for Liberal Education (a.k.a. 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.