Courses of Study 2016-2017 
    Jul 14, 2024  
Courses of Study 2016-2017 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Undergraduate Study and Graduation Requirements

In the College of Engineering .

Undergraduate Study

Students in the College of Engineering spend most of their first two years of undergraduate studies in the Common Curriculum, which is administered by the College Curriculum Governing Board (CCGB) through the associate dean for undergraduate programs and Engineering Advising. At the end of their third semester, they apply to affiliate with one of these majors:*

Biological Engineering (BE)†

Biomedical Engineering (BME)

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)—with options in information science and management science

Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)

Mechanical Engineering (ME)

Operations Research and Engineering (ORE)

Science of Earth Systems (SES)

Criteria for affiliation with the majors are described under “Affiliation with a Major.” The majors are described under “Undergraduate Engineering Majors .”

Most of the majors have a corresponding minor, in which the student can pursue a secondary interest if eligible. In addition, there are minors in applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, civil infrastructure, engineering management, engineering statistics, game design, industrial systems and information technology, information science, and business. See the main section, “Engineering Minors .”

*The majors biological engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical and computer engineering, environmental engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

†Students may major in biological engineering through the College of Engineering or the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). Students who do so through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are jointly administered by the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

There is no undergraduate major in nuclear science and engineering. Students who intend to enter graduate programs in this area are encouraged to begin specialization at the undergraduate level. This may be done by choice of electives within the major (e.g., engineering physics, materials science and engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, and the independent major). Contact a faculty member in the graduate field of nuclear science and engineering who is most directly concerned with the curriculum, including K. B. Cady, D. A. Hammer, R. W. Kay, and V. O. Kostroun.

Engineering Core Requirements

Engineering Major

To receive the bachelor of science degree, students must meet the requirements of the common curriculum (outlined below) as set forth by the College of Engineering, including the requirements of their chosen major, as established by the school or department that administers the major. (Further explanation of the revised common curriculum and major flow charts are provided in the Fall 2016 edition of the Engineering Undergraduate Handbook.)

Course Category


  1. Mathematics (major-specific)


  1. Physics (major-specific)


  1. Chemistry (major-specific)


  1. First-year writing seminar


  1. Technical writing*


  1. Computing


  1. Engineering Distribution


a. One introduction to engineering (ENGRI)


b. Two engineering distributions (ENGRD)


  1. Liberal studies distribution (6 courses min.)

≥ 18

  1. Advisor Approved electives


  1. Major program

a. Major-required courses

≥ 30

b. Major-approved electives


c. Courses outside the major


  1. Two semesters of physical education and demonstration of proficiency in swimming (university requirement)

 Total credits required for graduation, vary by major (see “Engineering Majors ”).

*Technical-writing courses may simultaneously fulfill another requirement.


The normal program in mathematics includes MATH 1910 , MATH 1920 , MATH 2930  or MATH 2940  (depending on the major), and a major-specific math course. At least C– must be attained in these courses; if not, the course must be repeated immediately before the next course in the sequence is taken. Failure to achieve at least C– the second time will result in withdrawal from the College of Engineering. Courses that are taken a second time do not yield additional credit toward a degree.


The normal program in physics includes PHYS 1112 , PHYS 2213 , and PHYS 2214  or the corresponding honors courses (PHYS 1116 , PHYS 2217 , and PHYS 2218 ). Engineering students must attain at least C– in each math prerequisite of a physics course before taking the physics course (e.g., C– in MATH 1910  before taking PHYS 1112  and C– in MATH 1920  before taking PHYS 2213 ). Substitutions for PHYS 2214  are possible in certain majors. Please consult the Engineering Undergraduate Handbook for details.


CHEM 2090  is required. The content is the same as that of CHEM 2070 , but Engineering students are expected to take CHEM 2090 .

Typically, CHEM 2090  is taken during the freshman year, but students who wish to complete the physics program (PHYS 1112 , PHYS 2213 , and PHYS 2214 ) first may postpone CHEM 2090  until the sophomore year.

Students considering chemical engineering or a health-related career such as medicine must take CHEM 2090  in the fall of their freshman year and CHEM 2080  in the spring semester.


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

First-Year Writing Seminars:

Each semester of their freshman year, students choose a first-year writing seminar from over 100 courses offered by over 30 different departments in the humanities, social sciences, and expressive arts. These courses offer the student practice in writing English prose. They also ensure beginning students the benefits of a small class.

Technical Writing:

Students can fulfill the upper-level technical-writing requirement using one of the six alternatives below. See for more information.

2. The Writing-Intensive Co-op:

The Writing-Intensive Co-op (WIC), offered jointly by the Engineering Communications Program and the Co-operative Education Program, enables students to practice and analyze technical communications at their Co-op placement site. Through the WIC option, students practice communications as an engineer in the workplace, get feedback on their communications from workplace mentors as well as from an Engineering Communications Program lecturer, and develop an awareness of how communications is integrated into engineering work. When carried out successfully, the WIC fulfills the college’s technical writing requirement.

For more information about the WIC option, please see the Writing-Intensive Co-op option website. Students interested in undertaking a WIC should contact Sharon Ahlers (sa258), the coordinator of the Writing-Intensive Co-op option, within the first two weeks at work.

4. One-credit Attachment:

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 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 , which may be taken more than once with different courses by permission of the engineering instructor.


COMM 3030  or COMM 3020 , taught by the Department of Communication (in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences).

6. Petition:

Occasionally, a student will be doing a significant amount and variety of technical writing elsewhere in the College of Engineering. It may be appropriate to petition the CCGB’s Subcommittee on Technical Writing for permission to use this forthcoming writing (not past writing) to meet the technical-writing requirement.

Introduction-to-Engineering Course:

An introduction-to-engineering course (designated ENGRI) must be taken during the freshman year. This course introduces students to the engineering process and provides a substantive experience in an open-ended problem-solving context. See the Introduction-to-Engineering course listing for current course offerings.

Engineering Distribution:

Two engineering distribution (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.

3. Mechanics:

4. Probability and statistics:

6. Thermodynamics and energy balances:

Additional Information:

Some majors require completion of specific engineering distribution courses for affiliation (acceptance into the major) or as prerequisites for the upper-class course sequence. For complete information, please see Affiliation with a Major  and the flow charts for each major in the Engineering Undergraduate Handbook.     

Note: Some majors require additional distribution courses after affiliation.

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 communications 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 they 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.
  • No more than one course may be chosen from Group 7 (CE).
  • At least two of the six courses must be at the 2000 level or higher.

Utilize the current Courses of Study as the master list of approved Liberal Studies courses. Additional approved courses and unacceptable courses can be viewed at

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, religion), expressive arts and symbolic behavior (visual arts, performance, poetry, myth, narrative, ritual), identity (nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality), social groups and institutions (family, market, community), and power and politics (states, colonialism, inequality).

Group 2. Historical Analysis (HA):

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

Group 3. Literature and the Arts (LA):

Offerings in this area explore literature and the arts in two different but related ways. Some courses focus on the critical study of artworks 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 artworks (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):

Offerings in this area investigate the bases of human knowledge in its broadest sense, ranging from cognitive faculties shared by humans and animals such as perception, 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, inclusive of 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, journal articles, oral presentations). 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 from this category may be used to satisfy the liberal studies requirement.)


  • Advisor-Approved electives: 6 credits required (approved by the faculty advisor*). Because these courses should help develop and broaden the skills of the engineer, faculty advisors generally accept the following as approved electives:
  1. One introduction-to-engineering course (ENGRI)
  2. Engineering distribution courses
  3. Courses stressing written or oral communication
  4. Upper-level engineering courses
  5. Advanced courses in mathematics
  6. Rigorous courses in the biological and physical sciences
  7. Courses in business, economics, or language (when they serve the student’s educational and academic objectives)
  8. Courses that expand the major or another part of the curriculum.
  9. Up to 6 credits of approved electives may come from ROTC courses at the 3000-level or higher.

* 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.

  • Major-approved electives: 9 credits (approved by the major and faculty advisors in the major). Refer to the major curricula for descriptions of courses in this category.
  • Outside-the-major electives: 9 credits of courses outside the major to ensure breadth of engineering studies.

Social Issues of Technology:

It is important for engineers to realize the social and ethical implications of their work. Consequently, in selecting their liberal studies distribution courses and approved electives, students are urged to consider courses listed in the “Science and Technology Studies ” undergraduate area of concentration. These courses may provide students with important perspectives on their studies and their future careers.

*Note: Majors in Engineering Physics may use AEP 3330 as an ENGRD in this category.

First-Year Requirements

During the first year, engineering students are expected to complete (or receive credit for) the following core requirements:

*Students interested in chemical engineering, pre-med, or other health-related careers should enroll in the CHEM 2090 CHEM 2080  sequence during their first year.

*Students interested in biomedical engineering should additionally complete BIOG 1440  or BIOMG 1350 ; and BIOG 1500  during the first year. (AP credit is not accepted).

Affiliation with a Major

Students are encouraged to apply for affiliation with a major during the first semester of their sophomore year, although earlier affiliation may be granted at the discretion of the major. This is done by visiting the undergraduate major office and completing the application for major affiliation form. To affiliate, students must (1) make good progress toward completing required courses in the common curriculum, (2) have a GPA ≥ 2.0, and (3) have satisfied the major’s course and grade requirements as specified below:

Major Courses and Minimum Grade Requirements

Biological Engineering

Minimum GPA > 2.5 and at most one grade below C– in math, science, and engineering courses. Completion of BEE 2600 /ENGRD 2600  (or ENGRD 2510 ) with a C– or better and one year of intro biology with a C– or better.  No more than two credits of research/project team and two credits of arts performance courses will count toward the cumulative GPA.  Completion of all COE core requirements by end of the sophomore year. (Also applies to transfer students.)


Biomedical Engineering

Minimum GPA of 2.5 in required math, science, and engineering courses completed with at most one grade below C-. Research/project team credit does not apply to this GPA. Completion of BIOMG 1350  or BIOG 1440  and BIOG 1500  with grades of at least C. Advanced Placement (AP, IB, GCE credit) CANNOT be used to satisfy this requirement. Completion of CS 1110 , CS 1112 , CS 1114 , CS 1115  and ENGRD 2202  with minimum combined GPA of 2.5 and no grade less than C-. Completion of designated College of Engineering common curriculum by the end of semester 3 of sophomore year (see list below).For any course that is repeated, the two grades will be averaged. Meeting the above requirements does not guarantee affiliation with the BME major. During the first years of this new major a selection process balancing the above criteria will be required to manage enrollment. A supplemental application will be distributed by BME upon receipt of the College of Engineering’s “Application for Major Affiliation”. Participation in volunteer engagement/science-based community/internship/project team/laboratory research activity at Cornell is encouraged. Designated Engineering Common Curriculum to be completed by end of semester 3 of sophomore year:  MATH 1910 , MATH 1920 MATH 2930 , PHYS 1112 , PHYS 2213  , CHEM 2090 , BME 2000  /ENGRD 2202  , any ENGRI, CS 111X.

Chemical Engineering At most one grade below C– in chemistry, math, physics, and chemical engineering courses. GPA > 2.2 in math, science, and engineering courses.  Visit the CHEME undergraduate website for additional details.
Civil Engineering GPA > 2.0 in all engineering and science courses. At least C in ENGRD 2020 .
Computer Science At least C in all completed CS and math courses. GPA > 2.5 in CS 2110 ,  (or CS 2112 ) and CS 2800 . GPA > 2.5 in MATH 1920  and CS 2800 . Visit the CS undergraduate web site for alternative affiliation criteria.
Electrical and Computer Engineering At least C+ in MATH 2930 , PHYS 2213 , and one of ECE 2100 /ENGRD 2100 , ECE 2200 , or ECE 2300 /ENGRD 2300 . Must have a GPA > 2.5 in (if completed): MATH 1920 , MATH 2930 , MATH 2940 , PHYS 2213 , ENGRD 2110 , ECE 2300 /ENGRD 2300 , ECE 2100 /ENGRD 2100 , ECE 2200 .
Engineering Physics At least B– in all required math and physics courses (MATH 1910 , MATH 1920 , MATH 2930 , MATH 2940 , PHYS 1112 /PHYS 1116 , PHYS 2213 /PHYS 2217 , PHYS 2214 /PHYS 2218 ).
Environmental Engineering GPA > 2.0 in all engineering and science courses. At least C– in BEE 2510 /ENGRD 2510 .
Independent Major Must have satisfied the engineering unaffiliated good standing requirements (see the Engineering Undergraduate Handbook for details).
Information Science Systems, and Technology At least C in two of MATH 2940 , CS 2110 , and ENGRD 2700 . Courses must be taken at Cornell and for a letter grade. GPA > 2.3 in completed engineering math, engineering distribution, and ISST major courses, which must be taken at Cornell. For a repeated course, the most recent grade will be used.
Materials Science and Engineering A cumulative GPA > 2.0 in the required Math, Physics, and Chemistry courses and at least C in ENGRD 2610  or ENGRD 2620 . Alternatively, at least B– in MATH 2930 , PHYS 2213 , CHEM 2090 , and ENGRD 2610  or ENGRD 2620 .
Mechanical Engineering At least C– in ENGRD 2020  and all completed required math, science, and computer science courses. ENGRD 2210  is recommended prior to affiliation. GPA > 2.5 in these courses: ENGRD 2210  (if taken), MATH 2930 , PHYS 2213 , and ENGRD 2020 .
Operations Research and Engineering At least C in each of ENGRD 2700  and MATH 2940 . GPA ≥ 2.2 in math, science, and engineering courses (both overall and in the term immediately before affiliation). At least C– in all ORIE courses completed thus far. Good academic standing in the College of Engineering.
Science of Earth Systems At least C– in all completed major required courses. GPA ≥ 2.0 in all engineering, math, and science courses. Good academic standing in the College of Engineering.

Students must be affiliated or conditionally affiliated with a major by the beginning of their fifth semester or they will be withdrawn from the College of Engineering.

Honors Program within Majors

Many of the engineering majors supplement the major with an honors program.


The B.S. degree with honors is granted to engineering students who, in addition to having completed the requirements for a B.S. degree in a major, satisfactorily complete the honors program in the major and are recommended for the degree by the honors committee of that major. To enter an honors program, the student must be on track to graduate with distinction, and a student who does not stay on track to graduate with distinction is dropped from the honors program.

Courses taken to satisfy the honors requirement may not be used to satisfy B.S. degree requirements. At least 9 extra credit hours are required, and a student must be in the program for at least two semesters before graduation.

No research, independent study, or teaching for which the student is paid may be counted toward the honors program.


An applicant to the honors program in a major must have an honors advisor: a faculty member from that major who will supervise the honors program and direct the research or project. The honors advisor need not be the student’s advisor in the major.

The application for the honors program should be a letter from the student that describes the proposed honors program in detail and includes the explicit approval of the honors advisor.

Students must complete a written application no later than the beginning of the first semester of their senior year, but they are encouraged to make arrangements with the honors advisor during the second semester of their junior year. Each major may place further constraints on timing.

Major-Specific Information

Each major defines the content of the honors program and may also place other requirements on the program, in terms of timing, content, and procedures. Information is given within the description of the individual majors.