School of Graduate Engineering and Applied Science
A108 Thornton Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400242
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4242
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.
The infusion of applied science into the learned professions 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 and Environmental Engineering; Computer Science; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Materials Science and Engineering; Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Systems and Information Engineering; and the Department of Engineering 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 and undergraduate programs in Computer Engineering are administered jointly by the Departments of Computer Science, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The School Today
The mission of the School of Engineering and Applied Science is: Through the creation and transfer of knowledge, SEAS educates leaders in the application and development of engineering and scientific solutions that benefit the world.
Four societal challenges capture much of the research strength within SEAS:
- Creating a sustainable future — There is a need to better manage our natural resources while providing sufficient energy for improved life.
- Engineering improved health — Technology and quantitative understanding of living systems can be used to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of disease and to improve the human condition.
- Advancing the cyber and physical infrastructure — Although the current cyber and physical infrastructure allows society to function in ways that would have been unknown in the not-too-distant past, there are many challenges to reinvigorating and expanding the reach of this field.
- Providing personal and societal security — The need for advances in protecting personal privacy and societal security has become increasingly important as more personal and societal functions rely on technology.