Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Welcome to the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department’s website!  We are glad you are here.  Please enjoy exploring and learning about our department.  If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

The University of Pittsburgh is proud of its history and tradition in civil and environmental engineering education, reinforced by a faculty who are dedicated to their students.  The curriculum prepares students to tackle today’s most eminent engineering, environmental and societal challenges.  Undergraduate and graduate students (M.S. and PhD) have the opportunity to study and conduct research in a diverse range of areas, including structures, geotechnical and pavements, water resources, transportation, mining, environmental, water resources, sustainability and green design, and construction management.  Graduates of the department have become leaders in our profession, serving with government, private consulting firms and contractors as well as research in private industry and academic institutions.

The department offers a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree that may be obtained by majoring in civil engineering or a new major in environmental engineering.  You can find more information on the requirements for each degree under the undergraduate tab.  The civil engineering major has been continuously accredited by ABET since its inception in 1936.  The environmental engineering major was established in 2015 in response to strong demand from students, industry and government agencies and will seek ABET accreditation in the Fall of 2017.  The Department also offers minors in civil engineering and environmental engineering to students majoring in other disciplines.

The undergraduate curriculum culminates in a capstone design project, which enables students to put into practice what they learned in the classroom, and offers a direct connection to local civil and environmental engineering professionals who consult with students throughout the semester on their projects. 

The department employs world-class faculty, offers access to first-rate educational and research facilities and partnerships with industry, all of which provide the necessary edge for our graduates to discover and pursue satisfying careers that have profound impact on meeting the current and any future challenges for the society. 





Feb
27
2017

What's Really in the Water

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (February 27, 2017) … U.S. beaches and waterways are often closed to human contact when tests indicate an increase in E. coli, usually after heavy rains overwhelm sewage systems. However, the concentration of these common bacteria is not a reliable indicator of viruses in the water, which present a greater danger of causing illness in humans. Through a five-year, $500,000 CAREEER Award from the National Science Foundation, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering will be developing new DNA sequencing methods to directly measure viral loads in water and better indicate potential threats to human health.“Quantitative Viral Metagenomics for Water Quality Assessment,” funded through the NSF’s Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems, is being led by Kyle J. Bibby, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School. The CAREER program is the NSF’s most prestigious award for junior faculty who exemplify outstanding research, teaching, and their integration. Dr. Bibby’s expertise in genomics tools to study, understand, and solve environmental challenges influenced this latest research, which will capitalize on new genetic sequencing tools used in medicine. “Viruses can persist in water longer than E.coli, and are an important component of disease caused by contaminated water,” Dr. Bibby said. “Although viruses don’t often appear in greater concentrations than bacteria, they still present a danger especially when waterways are contaminated by human waste.”According to Dr. Bibby, conventional methods used to detect viral pathogens in the environment are limited because of viral diversity. However, advances in medicine, specifically in DNA sequencing, have increased the ability to detect even the slightest viral load. Dr. Bibby’s group, which previously studied the persistence of the Ebola virus in the environment and has worked to develop novel indicators of viral contamination, will utilize quantitative viral metagenomics for viral water quality assessment.“There’s actually very little known about viral pathogen diversity and dynamics in wastewater-impacted systems because in the past, viruses were difficult to detect. New DNA sequencing methods and methods to concentrate the virus and analyze the data rapidly and accurately are necessary for this method applicable and economical. In addition, we need to demonstrate the efficiency and accuracy across several sources in the U.S.,” Dr. Bibby said. The CAREER Award includes an outreach component that allows Dr. Bibby to engage with students at the Pittsburgh Public School’s Science & Technology Academy (SciTech) next to the Swanson School, leading to development of a hands-on educational module for high school students to characterize microbial water quality. Dr. Bibby will also utilize the research to expand the H2Oh! interactive exhibit he developed with the Carnegie Science Center, enabling children to better understand the impact of water quality on everyday life.“Applying quantitative viral metagenomics to these DNA/RNA sequencing techniques has the potential to advance water quality monitoring not only in developing countries, but also in U.S. municipal systems that currently rely on fecal indicator bacteria such as E. coli to determine water quality,” Dr. Bibby said. “In the future, viral pathogen detection would be greatly beneficial in many other settings, such as sudden viral outbreaks, food production safety, and viral epidemiology.” ###

Feb
18
2017

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette features Civil Engineering Student-Athlete Zach Smith

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

There’s a dreamlike feeling that engulfs Lori Smith every time she and her husband enter Petersen Events Center. As they arrive at their seats, getting there early enough to see the end of Pitt’s pregame warm-up, they look for their son, Zach, a junior guard on the team. Before every game, without fail, he looks up, locks eyes with them and waves. It’s a brief moment, lasting no longer than two seconds, but it reinforces a reality that sometimes seems like anything but — her son is a Division I basketball player. “It’s not surreal once in a while; it’s every time we talk about it,” Lori said. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity he’s been given.” Read the full article by Craig Meyer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Feb
2
2017

Life-cycle assessment study provides detailed look at decentralized water systems

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (February 2, 2017) … The “decentralized” water system at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which treats all non-potable water on site, contributes to the net-zero building’s recognition as one of the greenest buildings in the world. However, research into the efficacy of these systems versus traditional treatment is practically non-existent in the literature. Thanks to a collaboration between Phipps and the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, researchers now have a greater understanding of the life cycle of water reuse systems designed for living buildings, from construction through day-to-day use.“Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings,” published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b03879), is the first-of-its-kind research utilizing life-cycle assessment (LCA). Co-authored by Melissa M. Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI), collaborators at Phipps included Richard Piacentini, executive director; and Jason Wirick, director of facilities and sustainability management. Pitt PhD graduate student, Vaclav Hasik, and Pitt undergraduate, Naomi Anderson, were first and second authors, respectively. “As water becomes more of a precious resource around the globe, there is a greater focus on developing new methods of water efficiency and water conservation,” Dr. Bilec said. “We’ve worked closely with Richard and Phipps since the CSL was first designed, and its decentralized water system provides a unique opportunity to explore how these strategies can be an alternative to traditional systems.”According to Dr. Bilec, LCA scientifically analyzes the environmental impact of a product or process throughout the entire life cycle, from the materials used to build a system, to their transportation, construction, use, and, eventually, the estimated end of life. Although LCA has been used to compare centralized and decentralized water systems in different contexts, the Phipps CSL research is the first to consider both water supply and treatment at a comprehensive site or in the context of a net-zero energy/water building. “Using groundbreaking processes in the building of the CSL has allowed us to work with Pitt to conduct research and learn about their efficacy, and will allow others to use this knowledge to advance their own work,” said Mr. Piacentini, Phipps executive director. “The only way to make a difference is by providing the resources for others to succeed.”Dr. Bilec noted that while the research found that a decentralized water system operates well for a facility like the CSL, the environmental benefits or trade-offs for such systems are dependent upon their lifetime of use, and may not necessarily be practical or environmentally preferable.  For example, a similar system might be more environmentally and economically efficient for a development of multiple homes or buildings, rather than one structure. Conversely, the relative impact of a decentralized system built in a water-scarce region may be more beneficial than its environmental footprint. The decision of what water system to build and its scale, she says, should be evaluated within the context of the entire life of the structure or site it supports.She also noted that research such as this is valuable because of the community-minded approach shared between Pitt, MCSI and Phipps, and its impact on students. For example, PhD candidate Vaclav Hasik is utilizing the CSL study to inform his dissertation on resilient and sustainable systems, while summer undergraduate Mascaro Center researcher, Naomi E. Anderson, was a key participant, illustrating the success of MCSI’s summer program.“The CSL at Phipps is a tremendous case study because it has achieved four of the most sought-after awards in sustainable construction,” Dr. Bilec noted. “Richard, his board and employees are incredibly forward-thinking and committed to not only the concept of a living building but also supporting its evolution through research, and that makes Phipps a wonderful collaborator. Opportunities such as this not only advance research in the field, but also provide a tremendous experience and inspiration for students.” Other co-authors of “Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings” include William O. Collinge, postdoctoral associate, University of Pittsburgh; Vikas Khanna, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, University of Pittsburgh; Amy E. Landis, the Thomas F. Hash '69 Endowed Chair Professor, Glenn Department of Civil Engineering at Clemson University; and Cassandra L. Thiel, former postdoctoral associate, now assistant professor, New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. ### Image above: The Center for Sustainable Landscapes exterior with constructed wetlands and lagoon at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Credit: Denmarsh Photography Inc. Image below: Diagram representing water circulation at the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes. Reprinted with permission from "Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings," Environmental Science & Technology. Copyright 2017, American Chemical Society.
For information on Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, contact Connie George, Director of Marketing and Communications: 412-622-6915 ext. 3801 (market@phipps.conservatory.org)
Feb
1
2017

University of Pittsburgh set to launch Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering major and professional degree this summer

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (February 1, 2017) … Answering a demand for professional programs that help students find sustainable solutions to regional and global engineering issues, the University of Pittsburgh this summer has designed a new Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering (MSSE) program. The major and professional degree will utilize a systems-based approach to help students identify and address complex environmental and socioeconomic problems.Housed within the University’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) with the degree granted from the Swanson School of Engineering, the 30-credit MSSE integrates with nine current masters’ degree programs in engineering, and provides students the opportunity to complete two M.S. degree programs with a limited time increase. The MSSE curriculum combines an engineering technical formation with the study of sustainability from multiple perspectives such as business, policy and economics. “Sustainability is integrated throughout our engineering curriculum, especially at the undergraduate level, and this new master’s program complements and builds upon this foundation,” noted Eric J. Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor and MCSI Co-Director. “Industry, government, non-profits and even the military today understand that sustainability impacts the triple bottom line of environmental, societal, and economic problems, and is much more than recycling materials or “going green.” The MSSE will give our students a distinct advantage in pursuing sustainable solutions in various professional settings.”According to Dr. Beckman, the MSSE may also integrate community-based service-learning opportunities to help students develop regional and nationally scalable sustainability solutions. This provides students with experiences that enable them to address actual issues up close while learning to communicate sustainability issues and solutions to multiple audiences.“MCSI has a proven track record in connecting faculty research with underserved populations in the Pittsburgh region, and so this degree program will not be limited to the classroom and lab, but will also reach out into the communities that Pitt serves,” Dr. Beckman said. “Sustainability is a global issue, but its strength lies in community engagement and helping the average person understand how sustainability impacts daily life.” For more information, contact David Sanchez, Assistant Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering and MCSI Assistant Director for Education and Outreach at davidsanchez@pitt.edu or 412-624-9793. ###

Feb
1
2017

CEE’s Leanne Gilbertson Wins 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 1, 2017) … Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, is a recipient of the 2017 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, which recognizes outstanding faculty on the basis of research, experience and academic leadership.“I am honored and grateful for the support from 3M, which comes at a critical point in my early career,” Gilbertson says. In addition to the recognition, the award provides financial support of $15,000 annually, for a total of three years, and includes an invitation to 3M’s Science & Engineering Faculty Day in June. Funds may be used for any purpose related to basic research. The 3M company established the Non-Tenured Faculty Award to encourage the pursuit of new ideas among non-tenured university professors and gives them the opportunity to interact with their peers and 3M researchers.Dr. Gilbertson’s research group is engaged in projects aimed at informing sustainable design of existing and novel materials to avoid potential unintended environmental and human health consequences while maintaining functional performance goals. Her research includes both experimental and life cycle modeling thrusts. The 3M award will support a new research direction focused on ‘Leveraging Nanomaterial Design for Next Generation Antimicrobials.’   Dr. Gilbertson earned her PhD in environmental engineering from Yale University in 2014 with support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and an Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship. She joined Pitt in 2015 after completing her postdoctoral research in Yale’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering. Dr. Gilbertson received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hamilton College in 2007 and was a secondary school teacher for several years before going to graduate school. ###
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

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