Engineering Departments

David Cox named head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering


David Cox
Blacksburg, VA , June 17, 2013
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

David Cox, professor of chemical engineering at Virginia Tech, has accepted the position of head of his department.

“During the past year, I have come to know Dave in his role as interim department head and have been highly impressed by his skillful and thoughtful leadership abilities. Dave has an excellent vision for the department and shares my enthusiasm for its future.  With high student demand, the generous Bobby E. Hord endowment, and space in the new Signature Engineering Building, the future bodes well for chemical engineering at Virginia Tech,” said Richard C. Benson, dean of engineering, in making the announcement.

Cox, a member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 1986, had served as the interim head for the 2012-13 academic year. He replaced John Walz who left in the summer of 2012 to become dean of engineering at the University of Kentucky.

“Serving as interim during the past year, Dave showed us all that he is indeed a talented leader that we are lucky to have serve us as the next head of the Department of Chemical Engineering,” said Benson, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair of Engineering. 

This is an exciting time for our department, with strong demand for our major, a move to the Signature Engineering Building on the horizon, a new endowment, and an opportunity to grow our faculty and strengthen both the undergraduate and graduate programs. I am eager to play a leadership role as we shape the department to educate the next generation of chemical engineers,” Cox said.

The Hord endowment to chemical engineering is a recent gift of $8.6 million from the estate of Robert Hord, allowing the department to invest in faculty chairs and graduate student fellowships.

Cox’s research interests are in the general areas of heterogeneous catalysis and surface chemistry, with specialties in experimental ultrahigh vacuum surface science and computational chemistry.

Cox has advised 10 doctoral candidates to completion, including Kirk Schulz, the current president of Kansas State University. In addition, seven master’s students have completed their theses under his guidance. He is currently the principal investigator on a $465,000 grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

Cox is a member of the American Vacuum Society, American Chemical Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, North American Catalysis Society and the Southeastern Catalysis Society.

Cox earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979, and his master’s and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Florida in 1980 and 1984, respectively.

The chemical engineering department has 13 full-time faculty members, and it awards approximately 100 undergraduate and 10 graduate degrees each year. The graduate program involves approximately 50 students and has an outstanding international reputation and provides opportunities for research in a wide variety of areas.

Students conduct research in 14 labs and university centers such as the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute , the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, and the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. The undergraduate program is nationally known for its capstone design course.


Lynn Nystrom
(540) 231-4371