UVA Engineering's Science, Technology & Society curriculum prepares engineers to analyze, solve problems and exercise good judgment.

Science, Technology and Society (STS) Requirements For All Engineering Students

All UVA undergraduate engineers are required to take at least four STS classes:

  1. STS 2600: Engineering Ethics
  2. One 2000 or 3000 level STS class
  3. STS 4500: STS and Engineering Practice
  4. STS 4600: The Engineer, Ethics, and Professional Responsibility

Students can elect to take their 2000 or 3000 level STS class either their second or third year. The sequence of STS 4500 and STS 4600 is taken in the fourth year of study in order to guide students through their senior thesis.

Minors and Other Opportunities

In conjunction with the History Department, the Science, Technology, and Society program offers a minor in the history of technology and science. Open to all University undergraduates, this minor provides students with an opportunity to become familiar with humanistic perspectives of technology and science. For the engineering student, the minor offers an occasion for placing his or her professional education in a larger social and intellectual context; likewise, it provides the liberal arts student with a better understanding of science and technology as key components in human culture. Click here for more information. The minor consists of 18 credits. College students may include the non-College courses as general electives upon completion of the requirements for the minor. The list of eligible courses and requirements can be obtained from the Department of Engineering & Society.





Students completing this minor will gain a deeper understanding of the interdependence of science, technology, engineering, and policy. They will also prepare themselves to lead organizations inside and outside of government, including those in industry, consulting, law, and medicine. It requires 18 credits. Along with core courses in politics and economics, all students take a course in science and technology policy designed for this minor. Three electives--from fields such as history, philosophy, and planning as well as politics and economics—deepen and broaden students’ education.

Understand how scientific, engineering, and corporate practices, and associated regulatory policies can guide the development, testing, and implementation of emerging technologies toward socially and environmentally responsible ends.

Contemplate ethical concerns about emerging technologies and about the development and implementation of new technologies. Acquire analytical skills for navigating ethical quandaries and policies about technology.

STS Curriculum

STS courses at the 2000 and 3000 level examine the social and ethical issues of science and technology from humanities and social science perspectives. Each focuses on a topic area, such as technology policy or sustainable energy. Although writing and speaking skills continue to be stressed in these courses, the focus shifts from skills to the course’s content and the broader objective of improving students’ grasp of the social and ethical issues of science and technology.

STS 2600: Engineering Ethics is required of all SEAS undergraduates. It aims to equip students with the knowledge, understanding, and practice to prepare them for ethical leadership now, as students, and for their future as engineering leaders. A primary focus of the course is the Giving Voice to Values (GVV) approach to helping students identify their values and to use those values as guidance for addressing ethical challenges they may face. Also of concern in the course is the cultivation of virtues, ethical principles, codes of conduct, corporate practices, and regulatory policies related to ethics.

Students in the fourth year enroll in a two-semester sequence, STS 4500: STS and Engineering Practice and STS 4600: The Engineer, Ethics, and Professional Responsibility. This sequence combines focused study of the social, ethical, and professional issues of engineering and technology with the research and writing of the Undergraduate Thesis.

The Undergraduate Record represents the official repository for academic program requirements.

Be sure to check SIS for courses offered for a particular semester.

Undergraduate Thesis

In the fourth or fifth year of study, undergraduate students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia undertake a research project called the undergraduate thesis. The undergraduate thesis project is designed to give students firsthand experience with the communication of technical information, the ideas and values that shape technology, the role of individuals and organizations in innovation, the role of technology in solving problems, the impact of technology on society, the ethical issues in engineering, the way personal values are expressed in professional choices and activities, and the management over time of a major project involving a variety of resources.

The projects are normally in a field of study appropriate to students’ career interests in engineering or applied science. Students receive guidance on how to organize their projects and in preparing written and oral reports on their research by taking a two-course sequence, STS 4500 and STS 4600 (formerly numbered as 401/402 and 4010/4020). Each thesis is reviewed and approved by a technical advisor from the students’ major department and by the students’ 4500 and 4600 professors.

Over the two courses, the undergraduate thesis project serves as a case study in a range of cultural and ethical issues. In STS 4500, students step back and consider the broader context of technology and science, and what constitutes scientific and technological progress, focusing especially on ethical and cultural dimensions. In STS 4600, students are encouraged to develop an understanding of the engineer’s role in society and the role of ethical issues and ideals in engineering. The engineering thesis is used as the particular focus for the issues raised in these classes.

Visit the UVA Library Science, Technology and Society page for a guide to research support for STS classes. For more information contact Associate Professor Rider Foley.

PIP student group in front of the U.S. Capitol Building

Policy Internship Program

The Policy Internship Program (PIP) is a unique combination of coursework and real, hands-on internships with policymakers in Washington DC that focuses on science and technology.