The Innovation Campus features a design centered on the principles of sustainability, health and wellness, green and social spaces, accessibility, connectivity, flexibility, and integrated technology. (Image: Virginia Tech)

Founded in 1872, Virginia Tech is a public land-grant research university with its main campus in Blacksburg, VA. From artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and manufacturing to health sciences, robotics, and more, the Virginia Tech College of Engineering offers an advanced engineering curriculum.

Engineering undergraduate students major in one of 15 majors within the college and engineering graduate students choose from 18 areas of study that include traditional research-based programs, online programs, and flexible professional-oriented programs.

Christina DiMarino works in the Center for Power Electronics Lab in Arlington. (Image: Chelsea Seeber for Virginia Tech)

The departments at the college include Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Biological Systems Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering Education, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Mining and Minerals Engineering, and the Myers-Lawson School of Construction.

Research Labs

The Advanced Engineering Design Lab is a joint venture between Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering and the Aerospace and Ocean Engineering department. The facility houses up to 12 undergraduate design teams in the areas of rocketry, drone technology, aircraft technology, and turbine energy.

The Frith First-Year Makerspace is a space where first-year engineering students learn by dissecting, designing, making, and analyzing engineering products.

Located within the inVenTs residence hall, the inVenTs Studios provide an interdisciplinary living-learning space for students interested in exploring their ability to envision, create, and transform innovative ideas into action.

Assistant Professor Satoru Emori seeks to develop thin films with a big payoff. (Image: Steven Mackay for Virginia Tech)

The Ware Lab provides space, equipment, and facilities for undergraduates to work within design student teams and removes boundaries that often separate engineering disciplines.

The 3.5-acre Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, which is set to open in 2024, will unite industry, government, and academia in dynamic project-based learning and research to shape the way emerging technologies influence society. Northrop Grumman has made a $12.5-million commitment to support research and teaching in quantum information science and engineering.

Virginia Tech is forming two centers for quantum engineering — one in Blacksburg and one in Alexandria. Each with a complementary focus area spanning multiple fields, these centers will work together to provide a uniquely transdisciplinary approach to tackle quantum challenges.

Technology Development

John Chappell (at left), an associate professor with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, and research scientist Laura Beth Payne used high-resolution, time-lapse imaging and a technique called transcriptional profiling to understand relationships between cells. (Image: Virginia Tech)

The future of space engineering requires effective communication and building a secure network in space is crucial. Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) researchers at Virginia Tech have partnered with the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom to build the world’s first hardware-in-the-loop test bed that emulates the changing connectivity of a mega satellite constellation at scale. With support from the CCI, the Virginia Tech team and its partners have been researching new space-based, high-bandwidth networks.

The test bed they built will be simulating mega internet constellations, including satellites, ground stations, connected devices such as phones, and the links between them all. By running the test bed through different scenarios, the team is looking at what to do when operations are disrupted by something like a space event or a security breach and how an adjacent satellite network could compensate for a compromised system.

Another research team at the college has recently received $2.9 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to tackle power grid sustainability, innovative approaches to power conversion, and related technologies. The team submitted a proposal for a new solution called SCALED, or Substation in a Cable for Adaptable, Low-cost Electrical Distribution, with a goal to create a more streamlined structure that combines the functionality of power electronics and the power density benefits of high-voltage cables to replace bulky power substations in the electrical grid we use today.

This new, more compact design could eliminate the need for large and expensive power substations and enable simple integration of renewable energy sources, electric vehicle fast-charging infrastructure, energy storage, and efficient direct current distribution lines. The team hopes to make SCALED adaptable for the future by making it bidirectional so power can flow in both directions.

The huge amount of digital data in the “cloud” today is stored on magnetic tapes and discs that are fast becoming a big part of the global energy problem. A Virginia Tech Department of Physics team is aiming to solve by creating new thin films made of specially engineered magnetic materials.

These proposed films are “vertically graded.” For example, a vertically graded iron-nickel film may be rich in iron on the bottom and rich in nickel at the top. The magnetic films will be about 10 nanometers thick, nearly 10,000 times thinner than a sheet of copy paper. Early research success indicated that magnetism in vertically graded films can be rotated with low loss, showing promise for energy-efficient device applications, but more studies need to be done about how chemical gradients actually affect the magnetic switching process.

Researchers at Virginia Tech are closer to understanding the earliest beginnings of the circulatory system during embryonic development — a discovery that could lead to ways to repair damage in the human body after a stroke or heart attack.

Using high-resolution, time-lapse imaging and a technique called transcriptional profiling to understand relationships between cells, scientists at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute found separate but closely connected cell types working together to build blood and other circulatory vessels in a mouse model and in cell cultures. The discovery may reshape current theories of vascular development and inform medical strategies to restore circulation to damaged tissue in the event of stroke or heart attack.

Gabriela Mendes, a Postdoctoral Associate in the Munson Lab, holds an example of the 3D model of the glioblastoma tumor microenvironment the lab developed to study how different people’s cancers respond to different therapies. (Image: Clayton Metz for Virginia Tech)

A biomechanics research team at Virginia Tech is using artificial intelligence to detect injuries and improve treatment. Musculoskeletal injuries, such as small tendon tears or tissue degeneration, can be challenging for the human eye to detect on ultrasound images. They are using machine-learning algorithms to address this problem with the goal of facilitating more accurate medical diagnoses.

The team is developing algorithms to identify features unique to injured tendons in ultrasound images provided by local clinical collaborators. The goal is to use these algorithms in clinical settings where machines can identify injuries in real-time. These analyses may assist with clinical diagnosis and injury prevention.

Another team in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is exploring new methods of treatment that would promote healing and alleviate some of the financial burden. To do this, the team is building computational tools and models to better understand the functional role of astrocytes in the brain. The hope is that a deeper understanding of astrocytes in the brain will help advance the development of new drugs and other treatments.

Additionally, the team’s work will focus on the brain’s system of complex signaling, or the way information is transmitted from one area to another. Because this process also occurs in other organs, the tools developed for astrocytes could be broadly applied to medical conditions affecting other areas of the body.

Glioblastoma, a rare but deadly brain cancer, has been extremely difficult to treat. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy have limited effects. But now Virginia Tech scientists have developed a novel 3D tissue-engineered model of the glioblastoma tumor microenvironment that can be used to learn why the tumors return and what treatments will be most effective at eradicating them — right down to a patient-specific level.

The model is an important step to identify new markers and therapies for the cancer. Research using the new model has already identified a new measure for understanding a patient’s tumor, including the capability of the cancer cells to renew and differentiate themselves, which is an indicator of how the cancer will respond to drug treatments.

Technology Transfer

The Center for Technology Commercialization is the technology transfer arm of Virginia Tech. For more information, call 540-231-1782.