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Julia M. Ross

Dean of Virginia Tech's College of Engineering

Julia Ross, dean of engineering
Julia M. Ross is the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering at Virginia Tech.

“The college is poised to fulfill our land-grant mission and responsibility to fuel the pipeline of a globally astute, diverse workforce and academic leaders. It all starts with shaping young minds.”    - Julia M. Ross


Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering and a chemical engineer, has appointments in the departments of chemical engineering and engineering education.

Ross is an active partner in the conversation on how the college can scale up experiential learning and make an impact on the tech-talent pipeline - both for academia and industry.

She wants more students to have immersive experiences with active participation in: study abroad, internships, co-ops, multidisciplinary teams, and cutting-edge technologies, like blockchain. In 2018,, a global leader in blockchain and publisher of the EOSIO blockchain software, made an initial $3 million commitment to the Department of Computer Science in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering to help students build skills in blockchain. Over the last year, students have participated in the new blockchain curricula, boot camp, challenges, and mentoring with engineers.

Ross has been instrumental as a spokesperson in elevating Virginia Tech’s footprint and expansion in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and the Washington, D.C. metro area. In support of Virginia Tech's Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia, the new campus will bring together hundreds of new graduate students, dozens of new faculty members, and numerous industry partners. 

Since joining the Virginia Tech community in 2017, Ross’ passion for creating an inclusive environment, ensuring all individuals are treated with equity, has enhanced engineering programs across the college. According to the American Society for Engineering Education, Virginia Tech's College of Engineering is the eighth largest producer of women engineers in the nation.

In Summer 2019, the college was among the first in the country to earn a bronze award and only one of 29 institutions that received exemplar status from the American Society for Engineering Education in its inaugural year of their Diversity Recognition Program.

Under her leadership in 2018, the Pathways for Future Engineers program, housed in the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity, was established through the generosity of electrical engineering alumnus Joe T. May '62 who gifted the College of Engineering $5 million from the May Family Foundation. The multiyear program aims to increase the number of first-generation students who enroll at and graduate from Virginia Tech.

Ross has supported the intersection of the health sciences and engineering by advocating for the newest undergraduate engineering degree program in biomedical engineering. As the fourth program of its kind in Virginia, the first cohort of 40 students started Fall 2019 and seeks to fill a growing niche for a curriculum in biomedical engineering that takes an immersive, in-depth approach to engineering fundamentals. Also, Ross hired biomedical engineering and mechanics department head Jennifer Wayne, who was honored with the 2019 American Society of Mechanical Engineers H.R. Lissner Medal for significant contributions to the field of bioengineering. Wayne was the first female engineer to receive the award.

Ross' research interests involve fluid mechanics, especially how it relates to infection formation in the cardiovascular system. She’s studied the adhesion of bacteria to protein surfaces, biomaterials, and human blood cells, which is a process that is typically one of the first steps of an infection. Most recently, she’s been interested in biofilm formation, which is what often leads to chronic infection. Using an experimental technique known as protein micropatterning, Ross studies potential development of infection-resistant implants or tissue-engineered constructs.

Not surprising, Ross is also focused on the success of students and the faculty that lead them in at the collegiate level, but also education and outreach to K-12 students and teachers. Funded by the National Science Foundation, among other funding agencies, Ross’ pedagogical research has allowed her to partner with K-12 students, exposing them to STEM at earlier ages.

Ross delivered her first State of the College address as dean in May 2018 and unveiled the college's strategic plan in Fall 2019.

She is currently serving a second, three-year term on the executive committee of the Global Engineering Dean's Council, working closely with engineering deans from around the world to advance engineering education, research, and service globally.

Ross is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. In 2013, she received the American Council on Education fellowship, the nation's premier higher-education leadership development program preparing senior leaders to serve American colleges and universities.

Previously, Ross served as dean of engineering and information technology at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

She holds a bachelor's degree from Purdue and a doctoral degree from Rice University, both in chemical engineering. 

In the News:


Old photo of Paul Torgersen in front of a blackboard.

The Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean’s Chair in Engineering was established in 2006 by Eric E. Schmidt, chairman and chief executive officer of Google, to honor the Torgersens for their many years of service to Virginia Tech. Paul Torgersen was dean of the College of Engineering from 1970 to 1990 and president of the university from 1993 to 2000. Torgersen died in 2015.