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The Academic Program

in this section

In This Section:

College of Engineering Majors

In the first two years, students in the College of Engineering take a set of courses designed
to provide a firm foundation for later specialization. This set of courses conforms to the
Common Curriculum, which is established by the College Curriculum Governing Board
(CCGB) and administered through Engineering Advising. During the second year, students
affiliate with an undergraduate Major (see list below); thereafter, they take courses
to satisfy the Bachelor of Science degree in that Major.

Biological Engineering (BE)

Chemical Engineering (ChemE)

Civil Engineering (CE)

Computer Science (CS)

Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)

Engineering Physics (EP)

Environmental Engineering (EnvE)

Independent Major (IM)

Information Science, Systems, and Technology (ISST)

Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)

Mechanical Engineering (ME)

Operations Research and Engineering (ORE)

Science of Earth Systems (SES)

Requirements for Graduation

The detailed requirements of the Common Curriculum appear in the university announcement
Courses of Study, which is revised annually. Students should become familiar with
this material, because they are ultimately responsible for meeting all graduation requirements.

The Common Curriculum and the Bachelor of Science degree require a certain number of
credits in courses belonging to 10 categories.

Category 1. Mathematics

Students must earn at least C– in MATH 1910, 1920, 2930 or 2940, and a math course chosen by the Major. Students who do not meet this requirement the first time they take a
course must immediately repeat the course and earn a satisfactory grade. Students may
not enroll in the next course in the sequence until they have done so. (A grade lower than
C– the second time will result in withdrawal from the engineering program.) Courses taken
a second time to meet this requirement do not yield additional credit toward a degree.

Category 2. Physics

Students must earn at least C– in MATH 1910 before taking PHYS 1112. Similarly, at least
C– is required in each subsequent math course before taking the physics course for which
it is a prerequisite (MATH 1920 is a prerequisite for PHYS 2213; MATH 2930 is a prerequisite
for PHYS 2214).

Category 3. Chemistry

Students who do not intend further study in chemistry should enroll in CHEM 2090 during
either semester of the first year. Students are required to receive credit for CHEM 2090
either through AP credit or by successful completion of the course. Students choosing the
CHEM 2090–2080 sequence must enroll in CHEM 2090 during the fall semester of the
first year so that they may enroll in CHEM 2080 during the spring.

Category 4. Computing

Introduction to Computing (one of CS 1110, 1112, 1114, or 1115) should be taken in the first

Before CS 111x, some students take CS 1109: Fundamental Programming Concepts, offered
only in the summer. CS 1109 may not be used as credit toward graduation.

Category 5. First-Year Writing Seminars

During each semester of the first year, students must choose a first-year writing seminar
from among more than 100 courses offered by more than 30 different departments
throughout Cornell. These courses, which offer the benefits of small class size, provide an
opportunity to practice writing English prose.

Category 6. Technical Writing

In addition to the first-year writing seminars, a technical writing course must be taken as
an engineering distribution, liberal studies, approved elective, or Major course. Students
can fulfill the upper-level technical-writing requirement in one of the six ways shown
below. For more information, see

  1. ENGRC 3340, ENGRC 3350, ENGRC 3500, taught by the Engineering Communications Program.
  2. The Writing-Intensive Co-op, an opportunity to combine work and academics. Some co-op students do a significant amount of writing on the job, and, under certain circumstances, this writing may satisfy the college’s technical-writing requirement.
  3. An officially designated writing-intensive (W-I) engineering course:
  • AEP/ENGRD 2640: Computer–Instrumentation Design
  • BEE/MAE 4530: Computer-Aided Engineering: Applications to Biomedical
  • Processes
  • BEE 4590: Biosensors and Bioanalytical Techniques
  • BEE 4730: Watershed Engineering
  • BEE 4890: Entrepreneurial Management for Engineers
  • CHEME 4320: Chemical Engineering Laboratory
  • CS/INFO 3152: Introduction to Computer Game Architecture
  • MAE 4272: Fluids/Heat Transfer Laboratory
  • MSE 4030/4040 (both): Senior Materials Laboratory I and II
  • MSE 4050/4060 (both): Senior Thesis I and II
  1. ENGRC 3023, a 1-credit attachment to an engineering course that is not one of the officially designated W-I courses (see #3 above). An instructor may wish to extend the writing done in their course for a given semester so that it will fulfill the technical writing requirement. With the approval of the CCGB’s Subcommittee on Technical Writing, the instructor may have students co-register in ENGRC 3023. (May be taken more than once, with different courses, by permission of engineering instructor.)
  2. COMM 3030: Organizational Writing, taught by the Department of Communication (in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences).
  3. Petition. Occasionally, students will be doing a significant amount and variety of technical writing elsewhere in engineering. It may be appropriate to submit a petition to the CCGB’s Subcommittee on Technical Writing for permission to use their upcoming writing (not past writing) to meet the technical-writing requirement.

Category 7. Engineering Distribution

The Common Curriculum requires three distribution courses (9 credits). One intro-to engineering course (with the course acronym ENGRI) is to be completed during the first
year. The remaining two distribution courses (with the course acronym ENGRD) should
be completed by the end of the fourth semester. Some Majors may require additional distribution courses, taken after a student affiliates with a Major. Common Curriculum distribution
requirements must be fulfilled by the end of the second year.

The intro-to-engineering course introduces students to the engineering process and provides
a substantive experience in open-ended problem-solving. The following courses
fulfill this requirement:

  • ENGRI 1100: Lasers and Photonics
  • ENGRI 1101: Engineering Applications of Operations Research
  • ENGRI 1110: Nanotechnology
  • ENGRI 1120: Introduction to Chemical Engineering
  • ENGRI 1130: Sustainable Design for Appledore Island
  • ENGRI 1140: Materials: The Future of Energy
  • ENGRI 1160: Modern Structures
  • ENGRI 1170: Introduction to Mechanical Engineering
  • ENGRI 1190: Biomaterials for the Skeletal System
  • ENGRI 1200: Introduction to Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
  • ENGRI 1220: Earthquake!
  • ENGRI 1270: Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Engineering
  • ENGRI 1280: Security, Privacy, and Information Network Design: Wiretaps to Facebook
  • ENGRI 1290: Energy: From Atoms to Zephyrs
  • ENGRI 1310: Introduction to Biomedical Engineering
  • ENGRI 1610: Computing in the Arts
  • ENGRI 1620: Visual Imaging in the Electronic Age
  • ENGRI 1810: Electronics for Human-Machine Interfaces
  • ENGRI 1820: Electricity Lights Camera Action: Nanoengineering for the Future of Bits and Bytes

The two ENGRD courses (6–8 credits) must be selected from two different categories
listed below. A student may use any one of the possible substitutions described.

  1. Scientific Computing
  • ENGRD 2110: Object-Oriented Programming and Data Structures
  • ENGRD 2112: Object-Oriented Design and Data Structures–Honors
  • ENGRD 3200: Engineering Computation
  1. Materials Science
  • ENGRD 2610: Mechanical Properties of Materials; From Nanodevices to Superstructures
  • ENGRD 2620: Electronic Materials for the Information Age
  1. Mechanics
  • ENGRD 2020: Statics and Mechanics of Solids
  • Majors in Engineering Physics may use AEP 3330: Mechanics of Particles and Solid Bodies as an ENGRD in this category.
  1. Probability and Statistics
  • ENGRD 2700: Basic Engineering Probability and Statistics
  • Majors in Engineering Physics may substitute MATH 4710: Basic Probability for ENGRD 2700.
  • Majors in Civil, Biological, or Environmental Engineering may substitute CEE 3040: Uncertainty Analysis in Engineering for ENGRD 2700.
  • ENGRD 3100: Introduction to Probability and Inference for Random Signals and Systems
  1. Electrical Sciences
  • ENGRD 2100: Introduction to Circuits for Electrical and Computer Engineers
  • ENGRD 2300: Digital Logic and Computer Organization
  • ENGRD 2640: Computer–Instrumentation Design
  1. Thermodynamics and Energy Balances
  • ENGRD 2190: Mass and Energy Balances
  • ENGRD 2210: Thermodynamics
  1. Earth and Life Sciences
  • ENGRD 2200: The Earth System
  • ENGRD 2510: Engineering for a Sustainable Society
  • ENGRD 2600: Principles of Biological Engineering
  1. Biology and Chemistry
  • CHEM 3890: Honors Physical Chemistry I
  • ENGRD 2520: The Physics of Life

Category 8. Liberal Studies Distribution

Global and diverse societies require that engineers have an awareness of historical patterns,
an appreciation for different cultures, professional ethics, the ability to work in multifaceted
groups, and superior communication skills. Cornell has a rich curriculum in the
humanities, arts, and social sciences, enabling every engineering student to obtain a truly
liberal education. At least six courses (totaling at least 18 credits) are required, and these
should be chosen with as much care and foresight as courses from technical areas.

  • The six courses must be chosen from at least three of the following seven groups
  • Only one course may be chosen from Group 7 (CE).
  • At least two courses must be at the 2000 level or higher.

Students should utilize the current Courses of Study as the master list of approved liberal
studies courses. Refer to the web page of Cornell Engineering Advising (, for complete lists of additional
approved courses and unacceptable courses. Please direct any questions to Engineering
Advising, 167 Olin Hall.

Group 1. Cultural Analysis (CA)

Courses in this area study human life in particular cultural contexts through interpretive
analysis of individual behavior, discourse, and social practice. Topics include belief systems
(science, medicine, and religion); expressive arts and symbolic behavior (visual arts,
performance, poetry, myth, narrative, and ritual); identity (nationality, race, ethnicity,
gender, and sexuality); social groups and institutions (family, market, and community);
and power and politics (states, colonialism, and inequality).

Group 2. Historical Analysis (HA)

Courses in this area interpret continuities and changes—political, social, economic, diplomatic,
religious, intellectual, artistic, and scientific—through time. The focus may be on
groups of people, a specific country or region, an event, a process, or a time period.

Group 3. Literature and the Arts (LA)

Courses in this area explore literature and the arts in two different but related ways. Some
courses focus on the critical study of art works and on their history, aesthetics, and theory.
These courses develop skills of reading, observing, and hearing and encourage reflection
on such experiences; many investigate the interplay among individual achievement, artistic
tradition, and historical context. Other courses are devoted to the production and performance
of art works (in creative writing, performing arts, and media such as film and
video). These courses emphasize the interaction among technical mastery, cognitive
knowledge, and creative imagination.

Group 4. Knowledge, Cognition, and Moral Reasoning (KCM)

Courses in this area investigate the bases of human knowledge in its broadest sense, ranging
from cognitive faculties (such as perception) shared by humans and animals, to abstract
reasoning, to the ability to form and justify moral judgments. Courses investigating
the sources, structure, and limits of cognition may use the methodologies of science, cognitive
psychology, linguistics, or philosophy. Courses focusing on moral reasoning explore
ways of reflecting on ethical questions that concern the nature of justice, the good
life, or human values in general.

Group 5. Social and Behavioral Analysis (SBA)

Courses in this area examine human life in its social context through the use of social-scientific
methods, often including hypothesis testing, scientific sampling techniques, and
statistical analysis. Topics studied range from the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes
of individuals to interpersonal relations between individuals (e.g. in friendship, love, conflict),
to larger social organizations (e.g. the family, society, religious or educational or civic
institutions, the economy, government), to the relationships and conflicts among groups
or individuals (e.g. discrimination, inequality, prejudice, stigmas, conflict resolution).

Group 6. Foreign Languages (not literature courses) (FL)

Courses in this area teach language skills, including reading, writing, listening, and spoken
non-English languages, at beginning to advanced levels.

Group 7. Communications in Engineering (CE)

Courses in this area explore communication as a way of acting in the world. The primary
aim is to provide students with the opportunity to practice performing a range of engineering-
related communication skills within specific genres (e.g. proposals, reports, and
journal articles, oral presentations, etc.). Each of these genres potentially engages a wide
variety of audiences and, depending on the particulars of context, each may have multiple
purposes. The secondary aim is to enable students to be aware of the choices they make as
communicators and to be able to articulate a rationale for those choices. (Only one course
in this category may be used to satisfy the liberal studies requirement.)

Category 9. Approved Electives

Six credits of approved electives are required and must be approved by the student’s faculty
advisor. (All students are strongly encouraged to officially document approved electives
by completing a petition, available in Engineering Advising, 167 Olin Hall.) Because
these courses should help develop and broaden the skills of the engineer, advisors will
generally accept the following as approved electives: one introduction to engineering
course, engineering distribution courses, courses stressing oral or written communication,
upper-level engineering courses, advanced courses in mathematics, and rigorous
courses in the biological and physical sciences. Advisors are likely to approve courses in
business, economics, and language that serve the student’s educational and academic objectives.
In other cases, a student’s interests might be better served by approved electives
that expand the Major or other parts of the curriculum, including the liberal studies requirement.
(Note: up to 6 credits of Advisor-approved electives will be allowed for ROTC
courses at or above the 3000 level.) In the event a student and their faculty advisor disagree
regarding the suitability of an approved elective, the student may appeal the decision
to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Associate Director) for their Major department
or to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs.

Students are free to take as many courses as they wish, in addition to the minimum
engineering curriculum requirement, before meeting graduation requirements.

No course with a number <1100 can be applied toward graduation requirements.

Category 10. Major Requirements

The requirements of the Majors are discussed on pages 28–84. They include:

  1. Major-required courses, i.e. courses in the Major itself.
  2. Major-approved electives.
  3. Courses outside the Major. These courses ensure breadth of engineering studies.

Residence Requirements

Candidates for an undergraduate degree in Engineering must spend at least four semesters
or an equivalent period of instruction as full-time students at Cornell, including at least
three semesters affiliated with an Engineering Major.

Engineering students who are on leave may not take Cornell extramural courses. Exceptions
are granted in extraordinary circumstances with permission from Engineering Advising.
At most, 18 credits earned through extramural study (during a fall or spring semester)
or acquired as transfer credit (or any combination thereof) following matriculation
may be used to satisfy the requirements for the bachelor’s degree in Engineering. (Credit
for summer or winter session courses taken at Cornell is not considered transfer credit, nor
does it count toward the 18-credit maximum.) Students cannot complete their last semester

Degree candidates may spend periods of time studying away from the Cornell campus
with appropriate authorization. Information on programs sponsored by other universities
and on procedures for direct enrollment in international universities is available at the Cornell
Abroad office, 300 Caldwell Hall. Programs should be planned in consultation with the
staff of Engineering Advising, who can provide information on credit evaluation policies
and assist in the petitioning process.

First-Year Requirements

By the end of the first year, engineering students are expected to have completed (or received
credit for) the following core requirements:

  • MATH 1910 and MATH 1920;
  • Two of the following (depending on Major): CHEM 2090, CHEM 2080, PHYS 1112, 2213, 2214;
  • One of CS 1110, CS 1112, CS 1114, or CS 1115;
  • Two first-year writing seminars;
  • One intro-to-engineering course (ENGRI designation);
  • Two physical education courses and the university swim test.

Preparing for a Major

Some Majors begin with courses that cannot be taken without prior completion of certain
prerequisites. Students planning to affiliate with such a Major must decide to do so early
enough to take the prerequisite courses, even though they will not formally affiliate until
after the prerequisites have been completed. Information on prerequisites of each Major is
available on pages 26-27 of this handbook and in Courses of Study.