the school of engineering

A brief history of a world-class program with humble beginnings.

The School of Engineering traces its origin to the end of the Civil War, when civil engineers were urgently needed to help rebuild the country. Tufts College responded by launching a three-year course in civil engineering in the fall of 1865, but it wasn’t until two years later that the first student, Frederick Howard White of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, enrolled.

The program attracted just a handful of students until 1883, when Tufts began offering classes in electrical engineering. Within two years, there were two dozen engineers on the Hill, representing a third of all students. The Bromfield-Pearson building opened in 1894 to support the study of carpentry, drawing, forging, and machine work. Other buildings followed, including Robinson Hall (1900), Halligan Hall (1940), Bray Laboratory (1947), and Anderson Hall (1961). 

It was the professors and the students who became the core of the engineering program. Vannevar Bush was one example of both. After graduating from the College of Engineering in 1913, Bush became an assistant professor in electrical engineering and also taught mathematics and physics. Two years later, he helped start the American Radio and Research Corporation (AMRAD), which built components for military and civilian radios in what is now Halligan Hall. AMRAD continued after Bush moved to M.I.T. in 1919, and was eventually bought by Motorola. In 1932, Bush, his former Tufts roommate Laurence Marshall, and a third colleague founded Raytheon Corporation. During World War II, Bush ran the Office of Scientific Research and Development, overseeing the Manhattan Project.  

Today, the School of Engineering comprises six major departments, three centers for interdisciplinary collaboration, and an institute for leadership and entrepreneurship.


Brain icon

The Psychology Building

The Department of Psychology focuses on collaborative, experimental scholarship that bridges areas such as neuroscience, social cognition, experimental clinical psychology, and developmental psychology. Faculty and students are illuminating subjects ranging from how infants pick up on social cues to how race impacts the way people interact with the world.


robot icon

Bray Lab

At Bray, future engineers are given the resources to pursue  innovations from scratch, whether it’s a Robotics Club firefighting robot or the Tufts Racing Team’s high-performance plug-in hybrid racecar. The work gets done on equipment in specially outfitted spaces, like the 3D printers in the Design Lab and the laser cutter in the Shop.


beaker icon

Science and Technology Center

David Kaplan, director of the Bioengineering and Biotechnology Center, is developing new possibilities for silk in medicine—just one of several projects going on here in biomedical engineering and chemical and biological engineering. Cutting-edge research is also happening in the Tufts Plasma Engineering Laboratory, led by Jeffrey Hopwood, professor of electrical and computer engineering.