ChE Department History

Chemical Engineering is one of nine departments in the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). The department offers programs leading to the Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Engineering (M.E.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees.

Education in engineering and applied science at the UVA reflects the strong personal interest in science and the mechanical arts of its 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. 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. During the next two decades nearly forty doctorates were awarded. In recent years, the number of students receiving advance degrees has increased dramatically with eleven students taking the doctorate in 1999-2000.

Today the Department of Chemical Engineering has about fifty graduate students, 95% of whom are pursuing doctoral degrees.