Innovation In Action

Research projects at Penn Engineering include:

Petaflop-scale computer simulations to advance our understanding of platelet aggregation, which will impact heart and stroke patients.

Molecular imaging that will provide unparalleled detail for detecting the earliest changes in cells that eventually become cancerous.

Polymer-carbon nanotubes, leading to new materials for enhanced heat removal for miniaturization and better performance in high-temperature electronics.

Optical circuitry, using nanoparticles as components to develop nanoscale optical devices and leading to the possibility of optical information processing at nanometer scales.

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History and Heritage

Founded by Benjamin Franklin, America's First Engineer

Penn was the first of its kind, a university created for the purpose of building knowledge that would benefit the future of our country and mankind. There have been many other "firsts" along the way and many more to come in the history of Penn Engineering.

Engineering Begins at Penn - 1700's - 1800's
1740: Recognized as the founding date for the University. In this year, the Trust for the Charity School of Philadelphia was established.

1850: Generally looked upon as the date to which Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania can be traced. In this year the Trustees adopted a resolution providing for a School of Arts with one Chair, a Professorship of "Chemistry as Applied to the Arts" with familiar lectures in Mineralogy, Geology, Theoretic and Applied Chemistry to be given by the professor.

1852: The School of Mines, Arts and Manufactures was established by the Trustees as one of the Departments of the University. A "Scientific Course" was also established. The first Professor of Civil and Mining Engineering was appointed.

1872: College Hall was dedicated and the West Philadelphia campus of Penn opened. The "Scientific Course" was enlarged and established as the Department of Science in the east wing of College Hall. Courses of Study in Analytical and Applied Chemistry and Mineralogy, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Geology, Metallurgy and Mining were offered.

1875: The Department of Science was renamed the Towne Scientific School in memory of John Henry Towne, Esq, a University Trustee.

1876: Gertrude Klein Peirce and Anna Lockhart Flanigen enrolled in the Towne Scientific as special students. They were the first women permitted to enroll in college courses at Penn, but they were not admitted in degree granting programs. Later in the year Mary Elfreth Allen, M.D., an 1876 graduate of the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, became the third woman to enroll as a special student.

1893: The Department of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering was established. The term "Dynamical Engineering" was no longer used to cover both Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. Courses of Study in Chemical Engineering were offered, and are the oldest of such courses in continuous existence in the country.

20th Century - 1900's - 1940's
1906: The Towne Building was dedicated, named for John Henry Towne, Esq.

1914: A separate Department of Electrical Engineering was established.

1923: The bequest of Alfred Fitler Moore endowed the Department of Electrical Engineering in the Towne Building as The Moore School of Electrical Engineering.Differential Analyzer

1935:The Differential Analyzer completed, which was the world's largest mechanical computing machine.

1946: ENIAC, ENIAC - the world's first computerthe world's first electronic large-scale, general-purpose digital computer was dedicated. The first computer course is also offered (graduate-level, through Electrical Engineering).

20th Century - 1950's - 1960's
1951: The Department of Chemical Engineering was established.

1952: The Electromedical Division of the Moore School was established, creating the first significant laboratory effort in its field in the country.

Towne Building1954: The four departments of the Towne Scientific School became, with the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, the five Engineering Schools (School of Chemical Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Metallurgical Engineering). In February, the University announced that in the fall semester, for the first time, women would be admitted to the undergraduate programs of the School of Engineering and the Wharton School.

1957: The School of Engineering appointed Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., a mechanical metallurgist, to the faculty position of Research Associate Professor of Metallurgical Engineering (the present-day department of Materials Science and Engineering), making her the first woman to join the standing faculty of the School of Engineering.

1958: Barbara G. Mandell was the first woman to enroll as an undergraduate in the School of Engineering.

1961: A program in Biomedical Electronic Engineering was offered, establishing the first Ph.D. Program in this field in the country.

1965: The Valley Forge Research Center was established.

1969: Elaine J. WeyukerAt the Commencement held on 19 May, the University awarded the degree of Master of Science in Engineering for Graduate Work in Computer and Information Science to Elaine J. Weyuker, Carol Faith Lieb, Carol Ann Persons, and Ruth Virginia Powers. They were the first women to earn the M.S.E. in Computer and Information Science degree at Penn.

20th Century - 1970's - 1980's
1972: A separate Undergraduate Program in Computer Science and Engineering was offered (prior to 1972, this was part of Electrical Engineering). The Faculties of the Schools of Engineering were reorganized into a single Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

1976: The Management and Technology Program was established.

1977: Dr. Ruzena BajcsyThe Curriculum Deferred Option was first offered to incoming Engineering and Applied Science freshmen. With the promotion of Dr. Ruzena Bajcsy to Associate Professor of Computer and Information Science, women held tenured faculty positions in each and every standing faculty at Penn for the first time in the history of the University of Pennsylvania.

1979: The Metallurgy and Materials Science department was renamed Materials Science and Engineering department. The College of Engineering and Applied Science was renamed the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The GRASP Lab was founded by Dr. Ruzena Bajcsy.

1981: In September, the Trustees elected Ruth Margaret Davis, Ph.D., an Associate Trustee of the University, for the term of a three-year appointment to the Board of Overseers of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, making her the first woman to serve as a member of the Board of Overseers and the first woman ever to serve in an oversight role at this School.

1985: The School of Engineering and Applied Science appointed Ruzena Bajcsy, MSEE, Ph.D., to the academic administrative position of Chair of the Department of Computer and Information Science. She was the first woman to hold an academic administrative position in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

1986: The Departments of Civil Engineering and Systems Engineering were reorganized as the Department of Systems, and the Center for Sensor Technologies was established.

20th Century - 1990's
1990: The Bachelor of Applied Science in Biomedical Science and the Bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Science were first offered. The Institute for Research in Cognitive Science was established.

1994: The Center for Human Modeling and Simulation was established. The Department of Systems renamed Department of Systems Engineering.

Institute for Medicine and Engineering1996: The Institute for Medicine and Engineering was founded.

1997: A master's degree in biotechnology (in conjunction with the School of Arts and Sciences) was first offered. (To learn about SEAS current Biotechnology program, click here.)

1999: Alumni Hall was renamed Heilmeier Hall. Lightning, the Penn Engineering solar car, placed 12th out of 60 entries in the Sunrace, the largest solar-electric vehicle race in North America. The Center for Bioinformatics was founded.

21st Century
PA State Historical Marker for the ENIAC2000: A Pennsylvania State Historical Marker was dedicated in June in honor of the ENIACís contribution to the world of computing. The marker stands in front of the Moore School building on 33rd Street.Melvin and Claire Levine

2002: Penn Engineering marks 150 years of engineering at Penn with a Sesquicentennial Celebration.

2003: Melvin J. and Claire Levine Hall was dedicated, ushering in a new era of computer science at Penn.

2005: The Penn Center for Molecular Discovery was founded.

2006: Mr. and Mrs. Peter SkirkanichSkirkanich Hall was dedicated as the new home to the Department of Bioengineering and the soaring new entrance to the School of Engineering and Applied Science. This spectacular facility is named for J. Peter (Wí65) and Geri Skirkanich, longtime supporters of Penn Engineering.

2007: Alumnus Krishna Singh gave $20 Million to Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science, which will create the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, a planned 100,000 square-foot facility that will serve not only the Penn campus but the entire Philadelphia region. In November, Little Ben, the Ben Franklin Racing Teamís autonomous car, finished in the top six in the finals of the DARPA Urban Challenge.

Embedded Systems 2008: The Penn Research in Embedded Computing and Integrated Systems Engineering (PRECISE) Center was founded and the MS in Embedded Systems degree was first offered.

2009: The SIG Center for Computer Graphics was completed and named for The Susquehanna International Group, LLP, better known as SIG, creating the largest academic motion capture studio in the region..