About ChE @ UVA

The mission of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Virginia is to conduct internationally recognized education and research programs in the application of the chemical sciences to societal needs, to develop successful students by maintaining close student faculty interaction, and to foster leadership in the profession.


Chemical engineering at the University of Virginia has been educating leaders of our profession since 1908, the same year that the American Institute of Chemical Engineers was founded. Today, we continue a growing tradition of excellence in research and education. Research programs cover a diverse range of topics including biotechnology and biomolecular engineering, energy and the environment, materials engineering and nanotechnology, and simulation and complex systems.

There are approximately 150 students in the undergraduate program and over 50 students enrolled in our graduate program. Of the latter, over 95% are studying towards a Ph.D. All students accepted into our doctoral program may expect to receive financial support as long as they maintain satisfactory progress towards the degree. Seven additional students are participating in the distance learning Masters of Engineering program (VEO). Our graduates pursue a diverse range of careers in both industry and academia, working in such fields as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, energy, materials development, and microelectronics.

The expanding footprint of the Department of Chemical Engineering includes Thornton Hall and in the Chemical Engineering Building that was completed in 1992 and designed specifically for chemical engineering research. Wilsdorf Hall was completed in 2006, connecting the chemical engineering, materials science and engineering, and chemistry buildings. New space for chemical engineering in Wilsdorf includes research and computational facilities as well as a large undergraduate laboratory and dedicated study space for undergraduates.

The department receives research support of over $2 million per year from industry, federal agencies and private foundations for fellowships, instructional equipment, and project research. Faculty and graduate students draw on the wide range of excellent research facilities available in the department and participate in a number of multidisciplinary research centers across the School of Engineering and the University of Virginia.

The faculty follow the Jeffersonian principle of excellence in education coupled to strong faculty-student interaction. We maintain a high faculty/student ratio and operate an open-door policy for faculty offices whereby students are free to stop in to discuss their research, science, careers or life in general.

Department History

Education in engineering and applied science at UVA reflects the strong personal interest in science and the mechanical arts of the University’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. The earliest curricular plans for the University included instruction in military and civil architecture. Engineering courses were first offered in 1827, eight years after the founding of the University.

In 1836, the Board of Visitors made civil engineering a formal course of study at the University of Virginia. In doing so, it began what would evolve into the first engineering school in the South and the first in a comprehensive university. The program in chemical engineering at the University of Virginia grew out of a strong commitment to industrial chemistry among the faculty of the chemistry department. A four-year curriculum leading to the chemical engineering degree was established in 1908, joining the previously established civil, mechanical and electrical engineering programs. Master’s degrees in several branches of engineering were first authorized for the 1948-49 session.

Chemical engineering offered its first courses for this new graduate program during 1949-50 academic year. By the middle of the decade, a sufficiently strong faculty and student base existed to permit establishment of a Ph.D. program. The first Ph.D. degree in engineering at the University of Virginia was awarded to a chemical engineering candidate in 1961.