B.S. in Mechanical Engineering

All students must complete the unified set of general requirements for all engineering majors. These courses are often completed during the first two years in SEAS, with the exception of STS 4500 and 4600, which are taken during the fall and spring of the fourth year, respectively.

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Check out our latest information from the 2023 ME Major Night!

The Field

Mechanics, energy and heat, mathematics, engineering sciences, design and manufacturing form the foundation of mechanical engineering. Mechanics includes fluids, ranging from still water to gases flowing hypersonically around a space vehicle; it involves the motion of anything from a particle to a machine or complex structure. Analysis, design and synthesis are the key functions of mechanical engineers. The question is often how devices and processes actually work. The first step is to visualize what is happening and clearly state the problem. A mechanical engineer will then use computer-based modeling, simulation, and visualization techniques to test different solutions. Design is one of the most satisfying jobs for a mechanical engineer. It is very gratifying to realize that an engineer can prevent more injuries with a single design than a doctor can repair in a lifetime. “Synthesis” is when you pull all the factors together in a design that can be successfully manufactured. Design problems are challenging because most are open-ended, without a single or best answer. There is no best mousetrap — just better ones.

The Undergraduate Curriculum

Students take a sequence of basic and engineering science courses. They develop engineering problem solving skills in the areas of mechanics,thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, materials and automatic controls. Students learn to use higher mathematics, statistics and modern computer techniques and productivity tools. The students will use symbolic and high-level mathematics tools, solid modeling and finite element analysis tools, as well as computational fluids dynamics and materials selection tools. They also have access to a state-of the art rapid prototyping facility with numerous 3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters, and the rapid prototyping facility can be used both for course work, as well as individual entrepreneurial initiatives. Mechanical engineering principles are reinforced and integrated through design assignments and “hands-on” laboratory courses in experimental methods, digital electronics, and electro-mechanical systems. Students conduct experiments in labs where they use digital data acquisition systems to evaluate the performance of instruments, motors, engines, electrical circuits, signal processing equipment and solid state control devices. For each lab module, students develop a hypothesis, design the experiment, carry out the test, and perform the data analysis.

The two-semester lab sequence in the third year familiarizes students with the state-of-the-art equipment used in modern industry. Working both individually and in teams, students also develop communications skills and learn about the complex cultural, legal, ethical and economic factors which influence the engineering profession. Those who wish to may select courses that satisfy the requirements of a minor area of study (e.g., aerospace, bio-medical, environmental management, engineering business).


Research Experience for Undergraduates Research is an important component of our undergraduate program in Mechanical Engineering. Many students are involved in hands-on research in one of the many active research laboratories within the department, either as paid research assistants or eager volunteers.

From the Center for Applied Biomechanics, to the Nanoscale Energy Transfer Lab, or the Mechatronics Lab—-opportunities abound. Our students have won more Harrison Research Awards than any other department in SEAS, as a testament to the many excellent opportunities that exist. Many students even begin this research in their second or third year, preparing them for outstanding senior thesis projects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The 19-hour credit limit is a reasonable upper bound on the load an engineering student can undertake with success. However, after discussing with your advisor, students with a strong academic record may request permission to take an overload (>19 hours) through a form available at the School of Engineering Undergraduate Office. An e-form is available at Registration Forms | University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science).

Normally, no. However, for some classes with minimal overlap, e.g. if the lecture portion of an MAE lab course conflicts with another course, it may be possible. If you need this accommodation, discuss it first with the course instructors to develop a plan to de-conflict exams and other course requirements. If they approve, fill out a time conflict override form available as an e-form from   Registration Forms | University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science).

Underclassmen can make requests to go reduced load (7-11 hours/semester) or part time (6 hours or less) to Dean Will Guilford (whg2n@virginia.edu) after discussing plans with your advisor.  In most cases, this decision will result in a delay in graduation, so this should only be taken in extenuating circumstances.

Fourth year students who do not need to be full-time to fulfill their graduation requirements can contact SEAS Registrar, Jesse Rogers (jr7up@virginia.edu) with their plans.

Students may use the Reduced Course Load Request Form to make the request.

In any case, students are encouraged to research the implications of this decision on student housing, financial aid, athletic eligibility, and benefits.

A “D” grade is considered a passing score, albeit indicating some significant weaknesses. Aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering undergraduate programs accept D-level work for individual courses. However, a cumulative 2.0 (C average) GPA is required to remain in good academic standing and to graduate.

Keep in mind that other departments may require a C or better in prerequisites for their electives. 

You may consider retaking a course to improve your prerequisite knowledge for follow-on courses. Grades for both original and repeated courses appear on your transcript and factor equally in GPA calculations.

The School of Engineering maintains a Transfer Equivalency List of pre-approved courses within the US at Transfer Credit Equivalency List | University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science and overseas from Transfer Credit Tables | University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Students should always get pre-approval on transfer credit for any course, not on the pre-approved list

You must send an official transcript to the School of Engineering registrar after the final grade is posted.  Additional information can be found at Transfer Credit Equivalency List | University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

You can satisfy the missing credit with an additional Math/Science/Technical course at an equal or higher level, i.e. with a higher course number. This is in addition to elective requirements for the mechanical or aerospace engineering major.

Exceptions to the required AE and ME curricula are rare.  However, students may submit an Engineering Curriculum Modification request found as an e-form from Registration Forms | University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.   Note that the modification will need to be endorsed by your advisor and approved by the Undergraduate Program Director: Profs. Haibo Dong (hd6q@virginia.edu) or Natasha Smith (nls5m@virginia.edu) for Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering respectively

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only.  The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found here.

Licensure Disclosure

  • As a member of the State Authorizations Reciprocity Agreement, the University of Virginia (UVA) is authorized to provide curriculum in a distance learning environment to students located in all states in the United States except for California. (34 CFR 668.43(a)(6)& 34 CFR 668.72(n)).
  • Upon completion of an engineering degree program which prepares graduates for licensure or certification, graduates may be eligible for initial professional licensure in another U.S. state by applying to the licensing board or agency in that state. Please visit the University’s state authorization web pages to make an informed decision regarding which states’ educational requirements for initial licensure are met by this program. (668.43(a)(5) (v)(A) - (C))
  • Enrolled students who change their current (or mailing) address to a state other than Virginia should update this information immediately in the Student Information System as it may impact their ability to complete internship, practicum, or clinical hours, use Title IV funds, or meet licensure or certification requirements in the new state. (34 CFR 668.402).