University of Virginia
The Rotunda at U.Va.
School of Graduate Engineering and Applied Science
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History  |  Research Centers and Institutes  |  Facilities and Services  |  Affiliated Agency

General Information

The University of Virginia takes pride in its continued development of modern engineering education and research. For over one hundred fifty years, the University has offered regular study in engineering, coinciding with the industrial development of the South and paralleling the rise of the engineering profession itself. Today, a total of 9 undergraduate and 31 graduate programs are offered by 8 academic departments.


School of Graduate Engineering and Applied Science
A108 Thornton Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400242
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4242
(434) 924-3897



The growth of applied science into a learned profession was anticipated in the founding of the University. As early as 1825, the Rector and Visitors formally indicated that instruction in military and civil architecture would be a part of the education program of the University. Such courses were offered starting in 1827. Notable members of the early engineering staff were Charles Bonnycastle, trained in military engineering in England, and William Barton Rogers, later co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering instruction was not sought widely by young men in the predominantly agricultural South, however; and by 1850, it was announced that the engineering program would be discontinued.

A new and more successful beginning was made in 1865 under the direction of Professor Charles Scott Venable, and by 1869 the University awarded its first degrees in engineering. Instruction was offered in civil and mining engineering until the 1881-1882 session, when engineering became a professional department. William Mynn Thornton became the first dean of engineering in 1905. Under his leadership, three new degree programs were added: mechanical engineering in 1891, electrical engineering in 1897, and chemical engineering in 1908.

Between World War I and World War II, the engineering curricula were revised and strengthened to provide a broader program of study, including the humanities. During both wars, the school offered engineering instruction to members of the armed forces; and ROTC programs for the Navy, Army, and Air Force were introduced during and after World War II.

Reorganization following World War II led again to an extensive revision of all curricula and to the graduate studies now offered. In 1955, two new branches of engineering study were recognized by degrees: aeronautical and nuclear engineering. In the same year, the first doctoral programs were instituted in chemical engineering and engineering physics.

In 1962, the name of the School was changed to the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) in anticipation of the establishment of the Department of Materials Science (1963), the Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science (1964), and the Department of Biomedical Engineering (1967). The Department of Systems Engineering was established in 1975, and in 1984, Applied Mathematics and Computer Science became separate departments. Further reorganization has led to the present school academic structure with its Departments of Biomedical Engineering; Chemical Engineering; Civil Engineering; Computer Science; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Materials Science and Engineering; Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Systems and Information Engineering; and the Department of Science, Technology and Society. The undergraduate program in engineering science and the graduate program in engineering physics are administered by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Graduate Programs in Computer Engineering are administered jointly by the Departments of Computer Science, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Research Centers and Institutes


Interdisciplinary research is carried out through research centers, laboratories, and consortia in which graduate students in two or more disciplines work together on a research project.

Advanced Materials and Structures Laboratory conducts thermomechanical testing with an emphasis on multi-scale approaches that establish connections between size-scale and thermomechanical performance of materials and structures. Together with conventional macroscale materials testing, this facility has a state-of-the-art nano-indentation system that allows mechanical testing on length-scales spanning from nanometers to millimeters. This system has force resolution on the order of one billionth of a Newton, and displacement resolution on the order of one angstrom; a unique capability is an environmental temperature chamber, which enables testing in the range of -50oC to 100oC. Current research is directed towards establishing connections between nanoscale material features and thermomechanical stability in thin films and MEMS, with an emphasis on compliant materials such as nano-porous ceramics and polymers.

Aerogel Research Laboratory was established in 1996 to investigate fundamental properties as well as cutting-edge applications of aerogels, which are the lightest solids ever produced. It is the only university-based aerogel research program in the United States.

Aerospace Research Lab was established in 1986 to conduct basic and applied research in advanced aerospace technologies. Research interests have expanded to include high-speed mixing and combustion, aeroacoustics, structures and materials, optical techniques, microscale heat transfer, and computational modeling.

Center for Applied Biomechanics is dedicated to vehicle safety testing with a major emphasis on studying impact and injury biomechanics. The focal point of the 10,000 square foot facility is a test sled mounted on a 66-foot track which allows simulation of high speed automobile crashes. In addition to the sled system, the CAB has a number of pneumatic and gravity driven impactors as well as state-of-the-art high speed data acquisition and digital video systems. Major research efforts at the laboratory include the study of advanced occupant restraint systems including air bag and seat belt systems. In particular, the CAB is establishing guidelines and criteria for the mitigation of airbag induced injuries.

Applied Electrophysics Laboratories (AEpL) serves as the University of Virginia’s center for research in solid-state materials, devices, and circuits. AEpL was founded in 1967 and consists of the Semiconductor Device Laboratory (SDL), the Laboratory for Optics and Quantum Electronics (LOQE), and the Millimeter-wave Research Laboratory (MRL). These laboratories share a 3,500 square-foot clean room facility for device fabrication and materials growth, as well as a variety of other facilities for microwave and optical analysis and device design and testing.

Atomic and Surface Physics Lab studies the interaction of energetic particles (ions, electrons) and photons with surfaces. Its goals are to understand the mechanisms leading to electronic excitations and how these excitations evolve and lead to the emission of light (luminescence), electrons, radiation, atoms and molecules (sputtering), and to radiation damage, chemical changes or heat. The studies have applications in semiconductor processing, nuclear fusion, gas discharges, biology, astrophysics, and space exploration. A substantial part of the laboratory’s work consists in modeling and simulations of surface processes in icy satellites, planetary atmospheres and magnetospheres, and interstellar grains. Projects are supported by NASA, NSF, and SWRI.

Cognitive Systems Engineering Laboratory develops decision-aiding systems for operators and engineers in the domains of process control, medical technology, and aviation. In all of these domains, teams of people work together to solve problems in complex, dynamic environments. Typical tasks include monitoring, diagnosis, control, scheduling, and planning, using both well-defined strategies and ad-hoc reasoning to meet objectives while satisfying constraints like organizational or industry-mandated objectives or rules.

Communications, Control, and Signal Processing Laboratory (CCSP) conducts research and development in a variety of communications and signal processing areas, including error control coding; data compression; network protocols; detection and estimation theory; statistical signal analysis (system identification, channel equalization, sensor arrays and image processing), and optical communication. Research in CCSP is primarily of an analytical nature, supported by computer simulations.

Computational Laboratory for Environmental Bioremediation (CLEB) complements UVa’s existing experimental Bacterial Migration Laboratory-the only laboratory in the world equipped to measure bacterial transport properties at both the macroscopic and the individual cell levels. This experimental capability, combined with the CLEB’s modeling and computational expertise, which draws on analogies to statistical mechanical methods for molecular transport phenomena, places CLEB in a unique position to substantially expand the state of quantitative knowledge about bacterial migration and In Situ Bioremediation (ISB), a powerful, cost-effective technology for restoring contaminated sites by exploiting the natural degradative and migratory abilities of bacteria.

Computer Architecture Lab focuses on exploring computer "microarchitecture" and the analysis techniques needed to study microarchitectural questions. Three of our research thrusts are branch prediction, exploiting compiler dependence relationships at runtime, and simulation.

Electrochemical Science and Engineering Center is a multi-disciplinary research effort that incorporates the departments of Materials Science and Engineering, and Chemical Engineering, as well as interactions with Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Physics. It is one of the nation’s leading research groups of its kind, and its research affects the performance and reliability of most products manufactured in the world today.

Electron Microscope and Image Processing Facility, located in the department of Materials Science and Engineering, is a comprehensive service and user facility for biomedical research. Its services include Transmission Microscopy, Scanning Microscopy and Confocal Microscopy. Equipment available includes Transmission and Scanning Electron Microscopes; Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope; High Resolution Vacuum Evaporator; Ultramicrotomes; Critical Point Dryer; Sputter Coater; Freeze-substitution Unit and Gatan Cold Stage, and a Cryotransfer Unit.

Embedded Computing Center explores means through which faculty and staff at UVa can coordinate research on embedded computing technology to produce the new intelligent devices that our society has come to expect. UVa has a unique combination of abilities that offer great potential to advance the state of the art in this field.

Far Infrared Receiver Laboratory (FIRLab) operates within the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics at the University of Virginia. The FIRLab is fully equipped to design, assemble and evaluate millimeter and submillimeter wavelength mixers and multipliers at frequencies from microwave to THz frequencies. Sources include two submillimeter wavelength gas laser systems (300 GHz-4.5 THz) and a variety of millimeter wavelength sources, multipliers and amplifiers. A Bruker IFS 66V Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (200 GHz-225 THz) is available for materials and component evaluation, as well as a variety of power meters, microscopes and probe stations.

High-Performance Low Power Laboratory (HPLP) focuses primarily on original research in the field of low power and high performance electronics, spanning digital VLSI and analog systems, architectures, circuits, and algorithms. HPLP currently has eight active researchers, as well as a new lab facility containing PCs and workstations donated by IBM and Intel.

Hyperpolarized Gas Imaging Research is a promising option for medical imaging of air spaces and certain tissues in humans without exposing patients to radiation associated with other methods (high resolution Computed Tomography and V/Q techniques, for example.) Since spring of 1996, UVa Departmental Research Team for Hyperpolarized Gases has been exploring and conducting research in this field.

Integrated Sensing and Processing Laboratory (ISPL) merges high functional density CMOS image/signal processing mixed-signal circuits with integrated detection/transudation structures to achieve improved application performance. Its current projects are in the areas of infrared imaging, adaptive hyper-spectral imaging, bimolecular fluourescence detection, and adaptive ultrasonic imaging. The laboratory’s work is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Carilion Biomedical Institute, and Agilent Technologies.

Intelligent Processing of Materials Laboratory (IPML) is one of the nation’s premier centers for research on the processing of advanced materials. Affiliated with the University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the laboratory incorporates both the synthesis and processing of materials along with their modeling, sensing, and control. Goals of IPML’s research include development of innovative process technologies, creating models for predicting materials evolution during processing, designing advanced in-situ sensors for tracking material changes during processing, and creating model-based path optimization and feedback control.

Interdisciplinary Research in Contaminant Hydrogeology Center is dedicated to investigation of the interplay between chemical, physical, and biological factors that control the fate and transport of contaminants in the subsurface. Its research is supported by teams of individuals from the departments of Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Environmental Sciences.

Internet Commerce Group, InterCom, is a coalition of university faculty and business leaders that promotes development of electronic commerce in Virginia by providing technical and business software, training, and consulting services to companies entering (or already participating in) the electronic marketplace.

Internet Technology Innovation Center (TIC) assists Virginia’s newest emerging industry and its growing base of Internet-related businesses. The Internet TIC is tasked to nurture an entrepreneurial environment, accelerate the creation and deployment of network-based information technology, develop the hardware/software infrastructure that Virginia needs for the coming knowledge-based economy, and expand Virginia’s high-skill workforce needed to develop, support, and market Internet-based electronic products and services. Internet TIC is funded by Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology and is a partnership among the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, and Christopher Newport University.

Justice Information Systems, Virginia Institute, was created to support the information technology needs of law enforcement agencies throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and on a national level. The Institute is funded by national funding agencies including the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, and the National Institute of Justice’s Crime Mapping Research Center.

Light Metals Center conducts a wide range of research on light materials including alloy processing, mechanical properties and microstructural characterization, deformation mechanisms and environmental effects of light metals. The center’s research advances knowledge of structural materials, which have a high strength- and/or stiffness-to-weight ratio and at the same time are able to perform satisfactorily in hostile environments.

Magnetic Bearings Center conducts applied research in the area of magnetic bearings used to support a variety of machines. The Center receives funding from the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, government agencies, and industry, and it places great emphasis on working with industry to develop magnetic bearing technology for a wide variety of applications, particularly in the area of turbomachinery. Many of the research results and computer programs developed by the faculty and students are widely used in industry, and in some cases are the industry standards.

Mathematical Computational Modeling Laboratory is dedicated to research in mathematical modeling, computer simulation, and virtual prototyping of various industrial technologies and industrial processing operations. Recent research includes studies in high-speed gas flows, two phase flow with fibrous material, rarefied gas flow, and dynamical motion of galaxies.

Microelectronics Institute serves as the University’s interdisciplinary microelectronics interface to outside organizations and within the University itself. Acting as a focal point for microelectronics communications at the University, the institute consists primarily of faculty volunteers. Through organized cooperation they seek to maximize the impact of their educational and research activities.

Microscale Heat Transfer Laboratory is dedicated to developing new techniques to assist in measuring, understanding, and utilizing microscale thermal phenomena. The laboratory’s research is aimed at developing a fundamental understanding of energy transport on ultra short time and length scales.

Millimeter-Wave Research Laboratory focuses on building communication and receiver components capable of operating at very high frequencies. The devices have a host of applications, including communications, radar, atmospheric monitoring, and radio astronomy.

Molecular Biomechanics Laboratory, part of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is dedicated to understanding the molecular mechanisms by which cells move, and the application of this knowledge to the improvement of American public health.

MRSEC Center for Nanoscopic Materials Design explores new directions in the nanoscale design and control of self-assembled epitaxial semiconductor quantum dots by providing new algorithms for understanding and controlling the coupling of short, medium and long range order in these structures. The Center collaborates with industrial, University, and government laboratories to support and further materials research and education in this field.

Next Generation Real-Time Computing Lab is part of the Computer Science Department at the University of Virginia. The laboratory studies a wide range of issues in all aspects of real-time computing. Real-time principles are becoming important for all systems since audio and video streams are being utilized in many new contexts from control applications to the Next Generation Internet.

Optics and Quantum Electronics Lab conducts research in photonics and optoelectronics. Current areas of interest include photonic materials, novel optical devices, micro-opto-electro-mechanical systems (MOEMS), and organic polymers like polypropylene and poly-dimethilsiloxane.

Risk Management of Engineering Systems Center develops technology to assist in the management of risk for a variety of engineering systems. Industry and government sponsors of research at the Center work closely with faculty and students, contributing their unique strengths and interests to the Center. The Center’s areas of expertise include environmental impacts, water resources and technology management, electronic, safety-critical systems, computer-based systems, including hardware and software performance and reliability, and reliability modeling of multiple failure modes in complex systems.

Rotating Machinery and Controls Laboratories (ROMAC) conduct research in the areas of rotor dynamics, turbomachinery, structural dynamics, magnetic bearings, automatic controls, turbomachinery flows, fluid film bearings, and seals. The Laboratory’s research is supported by a consortium of industries through the ROMAC Industrial Research Program.

Safety Critical Systems Center explores questions of safety in industries where safety is a matter of life and death. The goal is to make current systems even safer for the public. Projects include assessing the safety of modern rail transportation systems and studying issues of safety in the nuclear industry. The center has received support for related projects from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force.

Science and Engineering of Laser Interactions with Matter graduate training program is designed to develop students with enhanced mastery and appreciation of the knowledge and state-of-the-art technical skills required for rapid advancements in modern science and technology.

Semiconductor Device Lab maintains a position of international prominence for research on solid-state devices for millimeter and submillimeter wavelength electronics. Research is focused on development of high-sensitivity, ultra-low-noise Gallium Arsenide Schottky barrier diodes and superconducting junctions for high frequency (150 Ghz and above) receiver applications. Research topics include theoretical investigations of high frequency transport in ultra-small semiconductor devices, fundamental limits to device performance, and optimization of device design for specific applications.

Semiconductor Manufacturing Information Technology Center is a partnership between Dominion Semiconductor Co. and Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology. The Center’s goals are to improve productivity at Dominion’s state-of-the-art chip fabrication facility, in Manassas, while giving students hands-on experience with actual manufacturing data. The center is located at Dominion but has a companion laboratory at UVa. Both facilities are staffed by University students and researchers.

Semicustom Integrated Systems Center is an internationally respected research group in the areas of computer engineering and digital systems. The Center’s ultimate missions are to accelerate economic growth, to improve products and processes, and to integrate the results of academic research into Very Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) industry developments. Its research and education programs help satisfy the growing need for leading-edge design tools and methods in the VLSI industry.

Smart Travel Lab is a state-of-the-art facility that supports research and education in the rapidly emerging area of intelligent transportation systems (ITS). Using the latest information technologies and analysis and modeling techniques, researchers in the lab are developing prototype systems and applications that promise to improve the effectiveness of ITS. The distinguishing characteristic of the lab is the direct connection established between the lab and transportation management systems operated by the Virginia Department of Transportation. This connection provides researchers with direct access to real ITS data and systems.

Space Physics and Surface Physics Theory Program studies the physics and chemistry of energetic ion, electron and UV-photon interactions with surfaces and gases. The processes of interest are desorption and sputtering, as well as the radiolysis and photolysis of surfaces and gases. The motivation for the program’s research is to understand problems in space physics and astronomy.

Surface Science Center provides services on surface analysis, including modifying the surface layers of materials by ion implantation, and surface characterization and depth profiling of sample compositions using a Perkin-Elmer 560 system. Available techniques are Angle-resolved X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS or ESCA), Scanning Auger Electron Microscopy with sub-micron resolution, and Ion Scattering Spectroscopy. Each technique can be combined with the others and with sputter etching (using a differentially pumped ion gun) to obtain composition depth profiles.

Survivable Information Systems Center studies the survivability of critical information systems-air traffic control, telecommunications, nationwide control of power distribution, and the financial system. Societal dependence on these systems is growing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The Center’s research focuses on designing software which can be tailored to information systems to ensure the intended operation of their existing components.

Technology and the Environment, Virginia Institute, develops environmentally sensitive technology and techniques to mitigate the impacts of current technology on the environment. More than 25 participating engineering faculty members support a broad range of research, including environmental engineering, risk management, contaminant hydrogeology, environmentally sensitive chemical manufacturing, hazardous waste management, alternative energy systems, and the interrelationships of society, technology and the environment.

Transportation Studies Center focuses on issues and problems related to the development, operation, and maintenance of a safe, efficient intermodal transportation system for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation. The Center’s research program is noted for being responsive to emerging challenges from the transportation sector and for continually probing into new areas of transportation-related research, like intelligent transportation systems, traffic simulation studies, applications of geographic information systems in facilitating transportation planning and management, and decision support systems using artificial intelligence.

Virginia Artificial Heart Center is a major research facility for the design, development and testing of a magnetic bearing supported artificial heart for human implantation. Several prototypes have been successfully testing in pumping both water and blood. The current work is on a ventricular assist version of the pump but future work will be on a total heart replacement.

Wound Prevention and Repair Center explores the principles governing mechanical and biological events in chronic skin wounds, developing the necessary monitoring and prevention techniques to eradicate chronic wounds in hospital settings. At the same time, the Center applies these principles to accelerating the repair of acute skin wounds caused by trauma, and improving therapies for skin flap procedures, intestinal ulcers, and neurological injuries.

Facilities and Services


The School of Engineering and Applied Science is located in a complex of buildings, the main one being Thornton Hall, named after the first dean of engineering. Thornton Hall houses the school’s administrative offices, the Departments of Civil Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Department of Science, Technology and Society and assorted research laboratories. South of Thornton Hall is Olsson Hall, which houses the Departments of Computer Science, and Systems and Information Engineering. Adjacent to these buildings are three buildings housing the Departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Chemical Engineering. Wilsdorf Hall, under construction, will link materials science and chemical engineering and will be ready for occupancy by 2006. The Department of Biomedical Engineering is located in Building MR5, which is part of the Health Sciences Center. The Aerospace Research Laboratory is located on Mount Jefferson.

Computers The School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Department of Information Technology and Communication (ITC) provide a wide range of modern facilities to support student computing activities. Students use these computing facilities for a variety of applications including, course work, special projects, research, word processing, spreadsheets, and electronic mail.

These facilities are open 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and are staffed with student consultants during the afternoons and evenings. Over 500 workstations of various models are housed in these public labs, all of which are connected to the University networks and can be used independently, or to access other computers at the University or world-wide. Some facilities house high-performance Unix workstations that can be used for specific courses or research.

To supplement the public facilities, many departments and research groups operate their own computing facilities which are used for specific courses and research projects within those departments. Computer facility equipment ranges from PCs and Macintoshes, to general purpose Unix workstations, high-performance graphics workstations and specialized processors for vision and sound research, to highly advanced parallel processing engines.

The Science and Engineering Library located in Clark Hall, includes more than 240,000 volumes, 1,500 current serial subscriptions, and 1 million technical reports. A full range of information services is available, including an online catalog with remote access, reference assistance, computerized literature searching, and inter-library loans and document delivery.

The Office of Career Services is available to help engineering students establish their career goals and develop strategies to attain those objectives. In addition to individual appointments, the office provides resource material on career fields, job search strategies, interviewing techniques, and employment opportunities. The office also coordinates on-Grounds interviews in conjunction with University Career Services.

The Office of Minority Programs, established in the school in 1986, is available to help students by providing academic support, motivational activities, and financial assistance. The office provides counseling, peer counseling, and other special services for both undergraduate and graduate students. The office and student societies sponsor numerous activities to support engineering students.

Affiliated Agencies


The Virginia Transportation Research Council is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Highways in cooperation with the University, and its offices and laboratories are located in the Shelburne Building about one-half mile west of Thornton Hall. The council has two primary objectives: providing training in the fundamentals of highway engineering; and carrying out research programs to improve the economic design, construction, maintenance, and operation of highways. The council operates laboratories that study problems of highway aggregates, geological engineering, concrete, bituminous materials, soils, bridge structures, and traffic and safety.

The Virginia Transportation Research Council also provides financial assistance for graduate students whose thesis or dissertation research is in an area of interest to the council.

The Virginia Microelectronics Consortium (VMEC), a group of colleges and universities including George Mason University, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and the College of William and Mary that offer a world-class program in microelectronics education and research. VMEC was created in 1996 to serve the microelectronics industry in the Commonwealth and to exploit our diverse industry and educational microelectronics resources to our mutual benefit.

The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) at Langley Research Center (LaRC) is a world-class research and education institute created to do cutting edge aerospace and atmospheric research, develop new technologies for the nation and help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. The NIA consists of six founding universities — Georgia Tech, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina State University, University of Maryland, University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech — as well as Hampton University, Old Dominion University, The College of William & Mary., and the AIAA Foundation.

The NIA acts as a strategic partner working with LaRC to enhance its world-class aerospace and atmospheric research capability. The Institute complements Langley’s research creativity and expands research and technology development opportunities, and represents the creation of a significant new research and education asset for the nation. The Institute will also be a catalyst for economic development by stimulating the commercialization of new intellectual property and facilitating the growth of new business opportunities.

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