Hands On Experiences

Because Engineers Build Things

Work with one of our professors as early as freshman year
Half of your engineering curriculum has hands-on experiences baked in
Student-led design teams apply theory from the classroom

Engineers develop the cutting edge technology and create new knowledge of tomorrow.

Hands-on, application based classes, design teams, and directed research, in addition to formal programs and awards allow students to learn even more about engineering as early as freshman year.

Undergraduate Research

Our faculty and their research are some of the many reasons to choose the Viterbi School for the pursuit of your engineering degree.  We are consistently among the top universities for the number of faculty members who have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and many of our faculty have also won other prestigious awards. As a Viterbi undergraduate, you can participate in research that addresses many of tomorrow’s problems.  Leading areas of research at USC include biomimetic microelectronic systems, alternative energy, laser and lightwave technologies, biotechnology, structural safety, software engineering, robotics, nanostructures, extreme events, transportation systems, and many more!

There are many ways to get involved in faculty projects and research.  The university offers several programs and awards for research funding and placement, and Viterbi offers our own ways for students to get involved as well.  In addition to Viterbi’s formal and selective programs, many students get involved in research through participating n competition and design teams,volunteering in faculty labs, and taking Directed Research.  Here are just a few examples of projects students are currently working on in research here.

Million dollars in externally funded research every year
National Academy of Engineering USC faculty members
Faculty included in MIT Technology Reviews 35 under 35 innovators

Dr. Finley

Dr. Finley's research group constructs detailed molecular-level mathematical models of biological systems that are related to human diseases, focusing on cancer. She also directs the Computational Systems Biology Laboratory.

Dr. Ronney

Dr. Paul Ronney is a trained astronaut and mechanical engineer. His research focuses on flame ignition by transient plasma discharges, bioengineering, and more, and one of his experiments, a study of premixed-gas flames at low gravity, flew on three Space Shuttle missions.

Dr. Armani

In Dr. Andrea Armani's lab, undergraduate students have the opportunity to work with novel nanotechnologies, and develop new methods for biosensors and other disease detection techniques.

Class Projects

Many classes during your curriculum here at USC will involve some level of hands on activity.  Some classes, like Mechoptronics and Chemical Engineering Lab, will be almost exclusively lab based.  In contrast, other classes might have only one or two labs associated with it.  These projects and labs complement the theory that is discussed in the classroom, and give you real world experience of what engineers do.  Here we’ve highlighted just a few that we think are cool, but remember this is only a very small selection of all the class projects you might do during your four years here!  Plus, most majors have a hands on senior capstone course which allows you to delve into whatever project you are most interested in.

  • Build an electric guitar and rock out in EE 202 – Linear Circuits
  • Synthesize aspirin in brand new chemistry labs during organic chemistry
  • Design experiments relating to mechanics, optics, and electronics in AME 331, Mechoptronics
  • Build your own social network in your first computer science class, CSCI 103
  • Make gold nanoparticles and learn to use UV Vis in MASC 350, Nanomaterials and Nanodevices
  • Create circuits and study magnetics in physics labs
  • Make a glider plane in AME 105, Introduction to Aerospace Engineering
  • Create your own architectural models and building renderings for building science courses
  • Measure mass transfer in a distillation column in CHE 444, ChemE Lab
  • Simulate an entire city including people, business, activity, and more in the SIM CITY computer science project
  • Design and test a working medical device in the medical electronics class for BME
  • Break all sorts of things and test their strength in the Civil Engineering Lab course

Student-Led Design Teams

Student-led design teams are groups of students passionate about creating things.  Whether that passion is cars, rockets, or 3D printing, groups of students come together to make and build things utilizing a variety of spaces on campus.  These groups will teach you any skills you need to help engineer their projects, and give you the freedom to be involved as much or as little as you want.  These groups also provide great networking and mentoring opportunities with upperclassmen and industry.  Here we highlight just a few of the design teams on campus, with new ones forming all the time.

Rocket Lab

Be part of the first student group to put a rocket in space

SC Racing

Design and build a Formula 1 style car to race

Underwater Robotics

Build a submarine style robot to complete specific tasks

Aerodesign Team

Build a model plane to bring to competition

Concrete Canoe

Create a canoe out of concrete that actually floats


Make 3D printing accessible to everyone

Just to name a few.

Check out more design teams and other Viterbi Orgs:

Viterbi Student OrgsViterbi Student Orgs

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