Engineering college

Engineering at UNLV has come a long way since 1957, when Herb Wells, a local mining engineer, began part-time instruction. In 1961, he offered 80 students courses that could lead to enrollment in the bachelor's program at University of Nevada, Reno. Local growth led to the establishment of UNLV's School of Engineering in 1976, which was housed within the College of Science.

Rapid Expansion

The next two decades were a period of rapid expansion for the school. In 1984, the University of Nevada Board of Regents approved separate bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering (aerospace studies/Air Force ROTC was established in 2004). William Wells became the first director of the School of Engineering in 1986, and a year later, all eligible engineering programs had received accreditation through the National Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology.

In 1988, the School of Engineering separated from the College of Sciences to form the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, named for one of the most innovative aviators and engineers of the 20th century and a central figure in the growth of Las Vegas. Dr. Wells became the college's founding dean. The next year saw the completion of the Thomas T. Beam Engineering Complex, where for the first time the college's programs were consolidated into a single, multidisciplinary space.

Enhancing Research

In 1990, the $10 million National Supercomputing Institute for Energy and the Environment took up residence in the engineering complex, enhancing the ability of engineering and computer science faculty to conduct numerical research. Civil engineering became the inaugural engineering doctoral program approved by the Board of Regents, and marked the growth of research and advanced degree programs at the university.

The next year, doctoral programs became available in all four academic departments of the College of Engineering. Currently the college offers several master’s degrees in aerospace, biomedical, construction management, materials & nuclear, and transportation engineering, in addition to those offered in the traditional areas (civil & environmental, computer science, electrical & computer, and mechanical).

Research within the college was boosted in 2009 by the opening of the brand new Science and Engineering Building (SEB), which provides faculty and students with expanded opportunities for multidisciplinary research using state-of-the-art equipment.

The college is especially proud of its faculty, some of whom have received national recognition — fellows of their respective professional organizations and national/international awards in recognition of their contribution to specific areas of research – while others exhibit great potential in many areas including biomedical, environmental, renewable energy, security, and transportation engineering. Their achievements are reflected in the external funding they have received from federal and state agencies, as well as private industries.

Research Centers


  • 2010 — Rama Venkat
  • 2003 — Eric Sandgren
  • 2001 — Darrell Pepper
  • 1999 — Ronald Sack
  • 1988 — William Wells

Community Outreach

The College of Engineering connects with the community in various ways, including the sponsoring of hands-on and experiential field trip activities for local middle and high school students. Through membership in their industrial advisory boards, the college continuously engages community and industry partners for their input on curriculum, research and development activities, scholarships, internships and career opportunities for students, while the bi-annual Fred and Harriet Cox Senior Design Competition is sponsored by local industries. For many years, the College of Engineering has also been a supporter of Las Vegas Regional FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, which brings more than 1,300 high school students to the campus annually. In addition, college faculty and students are actively involved in mentoring Clark County high school teams to prepare for the competition, while also remaining involved in the FIRST LEGO League, aimed at junior high students.

Continued Growth

The College of Engineering has been steadily growing, enrolling more than 1,600 undergraduates and about 250 graduate students. Research expenditures have consistently exceeded $6 million for the last eight years. The college is continuously seeking opportunities to improve the quality of its educational and research programs.

Looking Ahead

Many recent developments within the College of Engineering have debuted to great success and are expected to continue growing, including:

  • A unique, one-of-a-kind interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program in entertainment engineering and design. A collaboration with the College of Fine Arts that began in 2007, the program graduated its first class of four students in spring 2012.
  • In 2010, the College of Engineering joined forces with the Lee Business School on a program to develop engineering senior design projects into business ventures. It has seen great early success so far.
  • Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) advancements:
    • Active pursuit of STEM education and related grant activities through the hiring of a grant writer through the Center for Math, Science, and Engineering Education (in collaboration with College of Science and College of Education).
    • The College of Education began offering a Pedagogy course in fall 2012 to combine learning theory and the practice of teaching for Ph.D. students in science and engineering. This is already blazing new trails to prepare future professors in STEM areas.
    • The colleges of engineering and science are working together with Allied Health to form multicultural programs for STEM- and health-related areas to recruit, retain, and graduate under-represented minorities.
    • A new STEM Recruitment Graduate Fellowship was started in fall 2012, with the goal of recruiting well-prepared students into engineering.

In the years ahead, the College of Engineering will continue to pursue its mission: to provide students with a solid foundation of practical and empirical knowledge that will enable them to solve wide-ranging problems, stay abreast of rapidly changing technology, and recognize their responsibilities to society.