College of Engineering

Richard C. Benson, Dean
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs: Bevlee A. Watford
Associate Dean for Administration, and Chief of Staff: Edward L. Nelson
Associate Dean for International Programs and Information Technology: Glenda R. Scales
Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies: John J. Lesko


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. It is the state’s largest engineering college, and ranks among the top five suppliers of new B.S. degrees in the United States.

    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.

    In U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges 2014” survey, released in September 2013, the College of Engineering’s undergraduate program ranked 15th among all undergraduate engineering programs that also offer the Ph.D., and sixth among public universities. The College’s Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics and the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering ranked 8th in the nation. Other notable department rankings are: the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s two programs ranked 10th for civil and 11th for environmental; the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering, 14th; the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, 15th; and the Department of Chemical Engineering, 20th.

    The magazine’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2015” survey, released in March 2014, ranked the College’s graduate program 21st among all of the nation’s engineering schools. Among fellow public universities, it ranked 10th in the nation. By individual program, those in the top 20 are: the Charles E. Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 10th for civil engineering programs and 8th among environmental engineering programs; the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems, eighth for industrial/manufacturing programs; Department of Biological Systems Engineering, eighth among biological/agricultural programs; the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering each ranked at 17th; the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics ranked 22, with the School of Biomedical Engineering Science at 34, the latter up from 54th just five years ago. Lastly, the Department of Computer Science ranked 43rd in the nation.

    The National Science Foundation is a major contributor of grants to the college. Research expenditures during the fiscal year 2011 totaled $194.8 million, placing the college 10th in the nation among the hundreds of engineering colleges, according to the NSF. This data remains the latest available from NSF. It represents an increase of some $42 million from 2008.

    The School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences’ research is growing exponentially.  From its birth in 2000 with almost no research spending, the numbers had climbed to more than $16 million by 2011 (latest reported number). In just about a decade, its unranked status rose to 34th in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, released March 2014, a move up from 54 approximately five years ago. As well, a new undergraduate minor was launched in January 2013.

    Virginia Tech’s Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering is one of the new 2013 participants in the National Center for Women and Information Technology program called Pacesetters, a fast-track program that seeks to radically increase the number of women in technology and computing. Pacesetters is a two-year program in which senior leaders from companies and universities publicly commit to increasing the number of women in the U.S. computing and technology workforce.

    The College of Engineering offers bachelor of science degrees in the following areas: Aerospace Engineering, Biological Systems Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Construction Engineering and Management, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Science and Mechanics, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Mining Engineering, and Ocean Engineering.  The Computer Science program is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, All other College of Engineering undergraduate programs in engineering are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET,

    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 field such as mechanical to the emerging fields of robotics and biomedicine. 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.

    Our graduates are well-rounded. 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 such as medicine, law, food services or business, their engineering education shall provide a sound base. Graduates of the College of Engineering are in high demand. Our Student Engineers’ Council-run Engineering EXPO -- one of the largest student-run career fairs in the country -- brought in approximately 270 employers in 2012, and we are a key recruiting school for three dozen major corporations and government agencies.

    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 profession’s ever-changing demands. 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. They also must be familiar with the social sciences and humanities.

    Engineers also 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

    The College of Engineering-led Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) is now housed in the Hugh and Ethel Kelly Building on campus, dedicated in the fall semester of 2013.  Ethel Kelly’s estate provided $5 million to help cover the cost of the most recent of three buildings built for the institute. That building opened in 2011 and is on Washington Street. What is now Kelly Hall opened in 2009 and is on Stanger Street. Another $1 million from the estate will support the new ICTAS Hugh and Ethel Kelly Lecture Series. Hugh Kelly, who died in 1989, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees of electrical engineering in 1937 and in 1938, worked at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories, and played important roles in groundbreaking projects, including the 1962 launch of the Telstar communications satellite, the first private venture in space. Ethel Kelly, who died in 2012, generously supported Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering as a way of honoring her husband’s legacy. Hugh and Ethel Kelly were early members of the Committee of 100.  They later joined the Ut Prosim and the Legacy Societies.  Hugh was a member of the College of Engineering’s Academy of Engineering Excellence.

    In the summer of 2013, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) approved Virginia Tech’s request to award masters and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering.

    In the spring of 2013 the Virginia Tech College of Engineering and College of Science jointly dedicated the inVenTs Laboratory’s Studio I on the second floor of Lee Hall. The inVenTs Residential Community provides an interdisciplinary living-learning space for students from engineering, science, and other disciplines to interact and together explore their ability to envision, create, and transform innovative ideas and – in the words of Virginia Tech’s tagline – Invent the Future. Approximately 1,270 students have used the facility since its fall 2012 soft opening. The inVenTs community includes students from four university groups, the Curie Learning Community and the Da Vinci Biological and Life Sciences Community, both in the College of Science, and the Galileo and Hypatia learning communities within the College of Engineering.

    Construction on the $100 million Signature Engineering Building, housing sensors that currently makes it the most instrumented building in the world for vibrations, will open for classes in fall 2014. The roughly 153,000-gross square-foot facility will serve as a leading center of engineering education in Virginia. Inside, a 15,000-pound Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 jet engine hangs 15 feet above the floor of the atrium, installed in the summer of 2012 by a team of engineers. The engine acts as an art centerpiece of the structure, and as a learning tool for our students for years to come. More information, including artist renderings and architecture plans of the structure can be found at

    At the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Campus, a building dedicated to propulsion research is under construction, with the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors giving its blessing on the $3.5 million structure in fall 2012. An Aerobiology Building in support of an agriculture/life science and engineering is planned for Kentland Farm, located off campus and heading roughly due west on Prices Fork Road. The facility will facilitate the research of unmanned aerial vehicles used to combat the spread of crop and animal diseases.

    In the College’s annual report to the American Society of Engineering Education, it reported $151.4 million in research expenditures for fiscal year 2011-12. This number is up from $134.8 million in fiscal year 2010. Overall, the College of Engineering is a quarter of a billion dollar annual enterprise with approximately one-half of that money raised each year through direct research dollars generated by the faculty.

    For fall, 2005, 4,800 prospective students applied for admission to the College of Engineering. By fall 2013, 7,414 applied, a 54 percent increase.  Starting with fall 2010, the target size for the freshman engineering class was raised from 1200 to 1300, an 8 percent increase.  In 2005 the entering engineering freshman class was 15.6 percent female, 2.1 percent African-American, 1.8 percent Hispanic. By comparison, in 2013 the entering engineering freshman class was 22.3 percent female. Members of the underrepresented population make up 11.5 percent (numbers no longer directly correlate because students now identify with more than one segment of the population.)

    The College of Engineering prepared a strategic plan for 2012-2018. Five themes are central to the College’s future growth: 1) provide a high quality environment for teaching, learning, and research; 2) recruit, educate, and graduate a high-quality and diverse undergraduate student body; 3) recruit, educate, and graduate a high-quality and diverse graduate student body; 4) address problems of regional, national, and global importance; and 5) support a diverse community of faculty, staff, and students.

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

Examples of Accomplishments at the National Level

    Two Virginia Tech College of Engineering teams advanced to the third phase of the futuristic Robotics Challenge sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Defense dedicated to high-tech research. Their goal is to create rescue robots that can easily maneuver disaster scenes and save lives. Each team within the competition -- one based in the Department of Computer Science, the other in the Department of Mechanical Engineering -- combines both a strong partnership with additional university research groups and private companies, and includes alumni of the College of Engineering. Team ViGIR -- short for Virginia-Germany Interdisciplinary Robotics, is a collaboration between: College of Engineering spin-off company TORC Robotics, based at Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center; computer science’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction; and German-based Technische Universitat Darmstadt, a longtime student-exchange partner with the College of Engineering. ViGIR built software and control tools for use in the simulation-based Virtual Robotics Challenge. The team is headed by TORC’s David Conner, a two-time Hokie graduate of mechanical engineering with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and an adjunct assistant professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Co-leading the team is Doug Bowman, professor of computer science and director of the Human-Computer Interaction center, and Oskar Von Stryk, professor of computer science and director of a robotics lab at Darmstadt. The second Virginia Tech-based team to advance in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finale is Team VALOR, an international team headed by Tomonari Furukawa of the new Terrestrial Robotics Engineering and Control Lab, part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. A location and time for the competition finale has not yet been announced by DARPA.

    A Virginia Tech College of Engineering student team is building a six-wheeled lunar robot and traveled to Houston’s Johnson Space Center in June as part of the 2014 RASC-AL Robo-Ops Challenge, sponsored by NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace. The team is comprised of students from the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Virginia Tech is one of only eight teams that traveled to the space center, taking with them a self-designed and built rover that was tasked with collecting rock samples on a faux planetary surface. Events at the June 3-5 event were judged for timeliness and task efficiency.

    A Virginia Tech College of Engineering doctoral student, since graduated, was one of 10 contestants on the Discovery Channel reality television competition show “Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius,” that focused on using logic and design to crack different engineering-related challenges each week. Amy Elliott of Fayetteville, Tenn., and a doctoral student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was one of 10 contestants on the eight-week show that aired in 2013. She made it to the finals when she went head-to-head with her last remaining opponent in a challenge to build a deployable bridge. 

    Virginia Tech played host to a first-time university-wide competition partially sponsored by the U.S. Air Force for students to design on-demand, remote-controlled 3-D printed aircraft and ground vehicles. Up for grabs in the Spring 2014 Additive Manufacturing Grand Challenge: $15,000 in cash prizes, including $3,000 for first prize in each of the air and ground vehicle competitions, and $250 for each team that created a functional vehicle. All Virginia Tech undergraduate and graduate students, individually or in groups, were invited to participate, no matter their course of study. Then project kicked off in March and was led at Virginia Tech by Christopher Williams, associate professor of mechanical engineering and engineering education.  The goal was to build an operational, remotely piloted ground or air vehicle made entirely or almost entirely via 3-D printed, or additive manufacturing, materials, that will allow future deployed military or civilian engineers to fabricate remotely-piloted vehicles while in battlefield or austere environmental conditions, such as the site of a natural disaster to search for survivors or carry out reconnaissance missions. Of the 500 students participants, most were engineering, but others came from geoscience, math, natural resources, and more.

    Virginia Tech’s Chem-E-Car team earned first place in the 2014 American Institute of Chemical Engineering student event held at the University of Virginia.  This competition tests the ability of the undergraduate team to design, build, and control a vehicle that is both powered and stopped by a chemical reaction. Seventeen teams representing 15 other prestigious universities competed.  This is the second straight year that the Virginia Tech Hokies have placed in the competition; they finished second in 2013. 

    A team of Virginia Tech College of Engineering students won first place at the April 2013 Collegiate Aerial Robotics Exhibition held in Milwaukee, Wis., dominating a sporting-like competition where unmanned model-sized quad copters and ground-based robots collected and launched tennis balls at set targets. Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Aerial Robotics Demonstration (CARD) team fielded both a ground robot and an aerial robot, with each match requiring the robots to pick tennis balls off the ground and then fire them into five towers of varying height with holes cut into the sides and tops. The ground robot fired balls into the side openings, and the aerial robot scored by dropping balls into the towers from above. Kevin Kochersberger, research associate professor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Unmanned Systems Laboratory at Virginia Tech, served as the team’s faculty adviser.

    Bireswar Laha and Min Li, both computer science doctoral candidates in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, received a 2013 IBM Fellowship, a competitive international program honoring exceptional doctoral students who have an interest in solving problems essential to innovation. Laha of Blacksburg, Va., is advised by Doug Bowman a professor of computer science and director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech. Li has worked in the Distributed Systems and Storage Research Laboratory at Virginia Tech for the past five years, under the advisement of Ali R. Butt, associate professor of computer science.

    A programming team of computer science students, Eeshan Shah, Karthik Kumar, and Ian Davies, placed first in the collegiate division of the 2013 Innovative Defense Technologies programming contest.  The contest focused on innovative methods for implementing automated software testing.

    In spring 2013, a research team consisting of graduate students and Shashank Priya, professor of mechanical engineering, unveiled a life-like, autonomous robotic jellyfish the size and weight of a grown man, 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighing 170 pounds. The prototype robot, nicknamed Cyro, is a larger model of a robotic jellyfish the same team unveiled in 2012. Both robots are part of a multi-university, nationwide $5 million project funded by U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research. The goal is to place self-powering, autonomous machines in waters for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring the environment, in addition to other uses such as studying aquatic life, mapping ocean floors, and monitoring ocean currents.

Major Undergraduate Scholarships

    For the 2013-2014 academic year, over a million dollars in scholarship funds were awarded to undergraduate students in the College of Engineering. Twenty-one entering freshmen and 24 continuing students received a Dean's Scholar award for fall semester 2013. These scholarships are open to all incoming engineering freshmen and are awarded based on academic potential, community service, leadership potential, family circumstances and essay quality. Each scholarship is available for up to four years of undergraduate study, based on academic performance. In fall 2013 the College offered three new, and continued 7 Eleanor Davenport Leadership Scholarships. The Davenport Scholarship provides full in-state tuition and fees and is renewable for students who maintain at least a 3.5 grade point average (out of a possible 4.0). The largest sponsor of upper-class scholarships continues to be the Gilbert and Lucille Seay Scholarship Fund, which awards students demonstrating both merit and need.

Additional Facts about the College

    The University Honors Program offers a unique challenge to students with extraordinary intellectual and creative abilities. 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 grade point average, 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.

    Approximately 9,063 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate engineering departments at Virginia Tech as of fall 2013. In the entering 2013-2014 freshman class, the average SAT score for the general engineering student was 1253 and the average high school grade point average was 4.12 on a weighted scale. The male to female ratio in the college is 3.45:1. Members of under-represented populations make up 29.8 percent of the freshmen class. Of the 2012-2013 College of Engineering bachelor’s degree graduates who were employed full-time, (the most recent year for which statistics are known), 65 percent were employed in a field related to their major. The average annual salary at the bachelor's level was $60,600.



    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. Admission to a degree program is competitive, with departmental restrictions established each year by the college.  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 14 degree programs. 

    Students wishing to transfer into an engineering program or change majors from another college or degree program within the university must meet current standards set by the college for each engineering program. All major changes are processed by the Engineering Education.

    Students transferring to Virginia Tech from another college or university will be considered for admission to a degree granting engineering program once 12 hours of A-F graded degree-applicable coursework is completed at Virginia Tech (including required courses for entry to a department).

    The college has a transfer articulation agreement with the Virginia Community College System. VCCS students who complete the transferable Associate Degree in engineering with a minimum 3.0 grade-point-average with “B” or better grades in all engineering, math and science 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 Blue Ridge, Central Virginia, Danville, Germanna, J. Sargeant Reynolds, John Tyler, Mountain Empire, New River, Northern Virginia, Piedmont Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Thomas Nelson, Tidewater, Virginia Highlands, Virginia Western.

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

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, eligibility requirements for enrollment 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:

  • Entry to General Engineering requires a minimum overall VT GPA of 3.0.
  • Construction Engineering and Management requires departmental application & interview.
  • All degree-granting majors accept applicants on a space-available basis.  Applicants with a minimum 3.0 overall VT GPA are guaranteed their first-choice major.  Applicants below a 3.0 overall VT GPA will be rank ordered according to GPA and placed in a major based on space availability. A student will be limited to three separate applications; if student is unsuccessful in entering first choice engineering major by third attempt, they must accept a lower-than-first-choice major (either inside or outside the college).  (See  for major change process and timing.) 

Graduation Requirements

    Degree requirements in the college range from 123 to 136 semester hours. Students should see their departmental advisors to determine the exact requirements of their degree. The 2.0 minimum GPA 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.

    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.