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. 





May
19
2017

Fueling the Future

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (May 19, 2017) … Numerous studies have raised critical concerns about the promise of corn ethanol’s ability to mitigate climate change and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Some of the studies have suggested that after a full life cycle assessment—meaning an analysis of environmental impact throughout all stages of a product’s life—biofuels like corn ethanol may not offer any greenhouse gas emissions reductions relative to petroleum fuels. The Royal Society of Chemistry journal Energy & Environmental Science recently published research by a team from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Oklahoma investigating the full life cycle impact of one promising “second-generation biofuel” produced from short-rotation oak. The study found that second-generation biofuels made from managed trees and perennial grasses may provide a sustainable fuel resource.  “Multistage torrefaction and in situ catalytic upgrading to hydrocarbon biofuels: analysis of life cycle energy use and greenhouse gas emissions” (DOI: 10.1039/C7EE00682A) took a novel approach to the production of second-generation biofuel while also comprehensively accounting for all of the steps involved in the full supply chain. “Corn ethanol environmental impacts weren’t really studied until after its commercialization,” explained Vikas Khanna, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and corresponding author of the study. “The great thing about this project is it addresses full life cycle sustainability questions of new fuel sources before they come up later down the road.” In 2007, the United Nations called for a five-year moratorium on food-based (or first-generation) biofuels because of concerns that they would consume farmland and lead to worldwide food shortage. Dr. Khanna and his team’s study used wood from oak trees, as they can be harvested year-round and reduce the need for large-scale storage infrastructure. “Second-generation biofuels differ from first generation biofuels because they don’t come directly from food crops like corn and soy,” said Dr. Khanna. “They include woody crops, perennial grasses, agricultural and forest residues, and industrial wastes.” A significant metric for determining the efficacy of fuel is the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) ratio. The EROI of petroleum crude production remains high at about 11:1, meaning an investment of one unit of energy will yield 11 units of energy. However, the EROI has been steadily decreasing since 1986 and will continue to worsen as fossil fuels become more scarce and difficult to access. When researchers study potentially promising energy sources, they look for a ratio greater than 1:1. Corn derived ethanol, for example, has a EROI of 1.3:1. The study found the median EROI for multistage second-generation biofuel systems ranges from 1.32:1 to 3.76:1.  The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 states that cellulosic biofuels, like the ones used in the study, must outperform the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels by reducing relative emissions by 60 percent to receive economic incentives from the government. The study surpassed minimum requirements and showed an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to baseline petroleum diesel. Additionally, there was a 40 percent reduction in hydrogen consumption relative to a single-stage pyrolysis system. “Pyrolysis is the process of heating biomass to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to and create biofuel,” said Dr. Khanna. “If it’s done quickly, in one stage, a lot of carbon will be lost. Our research showed that a multistage, lower temperature system of pyrolysis can increase the carbon chain length, create more liquid fuel and improve the energy output of the entire process.” Co-authors of the study included: George G. Zaimes, senior engineer at KeyLogic and former PhD advisee under Dr. Khanna; Andrew W. Beck, graduate research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh; Rajiv R. Janupala, research assistant at the University of Oklahoma; and University of Oklahoma faculty members Daniel E. Resasco, Steven P. Crossley and Lance L. Lobban. About E&ES Energy & Environmental Science is an international, monthly journal covering chemical, physical and biotechnological sciences relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies and environmental science. It has an impact factor of 25.427, and its rejection rate is more than 90 percent. ### Image above: Schematic showing the stages modeled in the biomass-to-fuel life cycle assessment. This image first appeared in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Energy & Environmental Science, Issue 5, 2017  http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2017/ee/c7ee00682a#!divAbstract
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
May
10
2017

Following two decades as Dean, Gerald Holder to return to faculty at Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (May 10, 2017) ... Marking the culmination of more than two decades of dynamic leadership, Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, has announced his intention to step down from his position to return to the faculty in the fall of 2018.Holder, Distinguished Service Professor of chemical engineering, has been dean of the Swanson School since 1996 and a member of its faculty since 1979.“Two words come to mind when I look back on Jerry’s incredible career as dean of our Swanson School of Engineering: tremendous growth,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “Under Jerry’s leadership, our Swanson School has seen record enrollment levels and total giving to the school has topped $250 million. “The school has also expanded academically to support new knowledge in areas like energy and sustainability — and also new partnerships, including a joint engineering program with China’s Sichuan University. And while I will certainly miss Jerry’s many contributions as dean, I am grateful that he will remain an active faculty member and continue to strengthen our Swanson School’s bright future,” Gallagher said.       “Through a focus on innovation and excellence, Dean Holder has led a transformation of the Swanson School of Engineering into a leader in engineering research and education,” said Patricia E. Beeson, provost and senior vice chancellor. Beeson added, "From the establishment of the now top-ranked Department of Bioengineering to the integrated first-year curriculum that has become a national model, the Swanson School has been a change maker. And with nearly three-quarters of the faculty hired while he has been dean, the culture of success that he has established will remain long after he steps down.” The University plans to announce the search process for his successor in the coming months. Holder’s Many Accomplishments In his 21 years as dean, Holder has overseen school growth as well as increases in research awards and philanthropic gifts. Enrollment has doubled to nearly 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and the number of PhDs has increased threefold. Holder also has emphasized programs to nourish diversity and engagement — for example, in 2012 the Swanson School had the highest percentage in the nation of engineering doctoral degrees awarded to women. Co-curricular programs also have prospered during Holder’s tenure. The school’s cooperative education program, which places students in paid positions in industry during their undergraduate studies, has increased to approximately 300 active employers. International education or study abroad has also become a hallmark of a Pitt engineering education, with 46 percent participation in 2015 versus a 4.6 percent national average for engineering and a 22.6 percent national average for STEM fields. The school’s annual sponsored research has tripled during Holder’s years as dean, totaling a cumulative $400 million. Alumnus John A. Swanson’s landmark $43 million naming gift came in 2007, the largest-ever gift by an individual to the University at the time.University-wide initiatives developed during Holder’s tenure as dean include the Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering; the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, founded with support of alumnus John C. “Jack” Mascaro; and the Center for Energy.Holder is likewise held in high regard by his peers. "As a dean of long standing, many of us refer to Dean Holder as `the Dean of deans,’ not just because of his years of service but also because of the respect that we have for his leadership, mentorship and impact on the engineering profession,” said James H. Garrett Jr., dean of the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.“He is an accomplished academician, an exceptional academic leader and a tremendous human being.” Holder, a noted expert on natural gas hydrates and author of more than 100 journal articles, earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Kalamazoo College and bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan. He was a faculty member in chemical engineering at Columbia University prior to joining the Pitt engineering faculty in 1979. He served as chair of the chemical engineering department from 1987 to 1995 before being named dean of engineering.Among many professional accomplishments, he was named an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow in 2003. In 2008 he was named an American Institute of Chemical Engineers Fellow and was awarded the William Metcalf Award from the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania for lifetime achievement in engineering. In 2015 he was elected chair of the American Society of Engineering Educators’ (ASEE) Engineering Deans Council, the leadership organization of engineering deans in the U.S., for a two-year term. The council has approximately 350 members, representing more than 90 percent of all U.S. engineering deans and is tasked by ASEE to advocate for engineering education, research and engagement throughout the U.S., especially among the public at large and in U.S. public policy. ###
Author: Kimberly Barlow, University Communications
May
4
2017

Of Bicycles and Glaciers

Civil & Environmental, Diversity, Student Profiles

This article, "Graduating Senior Profiles: Naomi Anderson," originally appeared in the May 4, 2017 issue of The Pitt Chronicle. Author: Kimberly K. Barlow. Posted with permission. Driven by passions for water conservation and bicycling, Naomi Anderson has studied artificial glaciers in the Himalayas, helped to launch a campus bicycle cooperative and designed prize-winning solutions to mitigate abandoned mine drainage in the South Hills. In addition to these highlights of her five years as an undergraduate in the Swanson School of Engineering, Anderson has coordinated sustainability projects on and around campus and pedaled with friends to Washington, D.C., on the Great Allegheny Passage trail — twice. Anderson, who graduated on April 30, is one of the first two students to receive the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s new bachelor of science degree in environmental engineering. It’s a degree she wants to use here in Pittsburgh. A graduate of Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, she grew up in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Her parents — Stewart Anderson, a faculty member in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, and Deb Anderson, a business analyst at Grant Street Group — recognized early on her affinity for hands-on problem solving. hey nudged, gently. “‘You have an engineering brain,’ they’d say. They would always come to me to fix things,” Anderson recalls. When she arrived at Pitt, her preference for hands-on solutions made her choice of an engineering discipline easy: “It was civil or nothing,” she says. But her path there wasn’t all smooth. A required course in concrete structures had Anderson in an unhappy spot. “I was thinking, ‘I can’t do this major anymore,’” she says, admitting she considered leaving engineering. Anderson’s adviser, Leonard Casson, encouraged her instead to consider switching to the brand new environmental engineering major, which she did early in her final school year. “Everything came together at the right time,” Casson says. Anderson is exactly the sort of student the department had in mind when it created the new major, says Casson, an associate professor and the civil and environmental engineering department’s academic coordinator. “With her intellect, she’s capable of doing anything,” he says of Anderson. Summer experiences with a Student Conservation Association trail crew that worked to correct water drainage on forest trails in Vermont sent her along the path to environmental engineering. “It was cool to build something I could immediately see, helping nature,” she says. Her interest in water resources led her to the topic of artificial glaciers, and a resulting freshman research paper on the subject got the attention of a University of Massachusetts Amherst researcher who invited Anderson and her coauthor, fellow Pitt engineering student Taylor Shippling, to join her in the mountains of northern India to research the structures up close. Summers there are short, so farmers need melt water from glaciers to arrive at just the right time in the planting season if their crops are to succeed. As the glaciers recede, water takes longer to flow from higher on the mountain. To remedy the problem, engineers there have built structures to trap the melting water at lower altitudes, where it freezes in an ice dam and later melts at the expected time. “It was sweet to go to India,” says Anderson, who blogged with Shippling during their time in the province of Ladakh. “It was interesting learning about the technology — and to do so in a way that’s not like westerners traveling abroad to fix problems in the third world, but rather to learn,” Anderson says, not only about hydrology, but also from the local experts and their solutions. Elsewhere beyond the classroom, as president of Pitt’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, Anderson coordinated projects to winterize students’ homes; to test the potential of wind belts, which are flapping straps that can generate power; and to create a rain garden in conjunction with an Oakland community group. In 2015, she joined with friends to found the Pitt Bicycle Collective to support the campus cycling community. The collective’s proposal to create a bike repair space in the Posvar Hall underpass won the $10,000 top prize in the 2017 Sustainable Solutions competition on campus. The Bike Cave will launch before fall, she says. Gena Kovalcik, codirector of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI), grew to know Anderson as both passionate and prepared in her proposals when seeking funding for sustainability-related projects. MCSI summer research funding contributed to the paper that led to Anderson’s journey to India. The center also provided some matching funds for ESW projects and the Bike Cave, Kovalcik says. “Hers were more than just lofty ideas. Every time she’d come into my office, I knew she had a plan. It was always well thought out and thorough. She came in with a budget and a strategy to make it happen. I’m so excited to see what she does next,” Kovalcik says. In a few weeks, Anderson and her mom will embark on a road trip to her next destination: Colorado, where she will spend four months as part of a Southwest Conservation Corps trail maintenance crew in the Four Corners region. When she returns to Pittsburgh in October, she plans to settle in Lawrenceville and seek a job involving water resources. “I want to be here. I think Pittsburgh needs people who care,” she says. “I’ve served Pitt. Now I’m excited to serve Pittsburgh.”
Author: Kimberly K. Barlow, University Communications
May
4
2017

Pitt engineering students study Chartiers Creek pollution

Civil & Environmental

One of my responsibilities with the University of Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering Department is coordinating of our senior design projects program. In their final semester, seniors are required to participate in a semester-long team design project. Ideally these projects are based on real world problems, constraints and data. The final class is a day-long colloquium in which each team spends an hour presenting its results to a large audience of students, faculty, family members, and visiting engineering practitioners. This year's colloquium was particularly impressive and I am proud of the students and their accomplishments. Read the article in the Tribune Review, or the full post at Dr. Oyler's blog.
John Oyler, Contributing Writer & Adjunct Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Apr
11
2017

CDC/WHO Ebola Guidelines Could Put Sewer Workers at Risk

Civil & Environmental

PHILADELPHIA (April 11, 2017) ... Research from Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh suggests that guidelines for safe disposal of liquid waste from patients being treated for the Ebola virus might not go far enough to protect water treatment workers from being exposed. In a study recently published in the journal Water Environment Research, a group of environmental engineering researchers reports that sewer workers downstream of hospitals and treatment centers could contract Ebola via inhalation — a risk that is not currently accounted for in the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention or World Health Organization Ebola response protocol. The study, “ Risks from Ebolavirus Discharge From Hospitals to Sewer Workers,” authored by Charles Haas, PhD, LD Betz professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering and head of the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department; and Leonard Casson, PhD, and Kyle Bibby, PhD, from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, takes the first steps toward understanding the risk that this untreated waste poses to the people in the water treatment process who work in close proximity to it. (doi:10.2175/106143017X14839994523181) “During the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak we had our first case of Ebola treated in the U.S. and by the end 11 individuals had been treated here—so this is certainly an area of risk assessment that we need to examine more closely,” Haas said. Initial guidelines issued by the WHO during the outbreak suggested that liquid waste generated by individuals being treated for Ebola could be disposed of via sanitary sewer or pit latrine without additional treatment. Months later it issued more conservative guidelines that suggested containing the waste in a holding tank before releasing it into the water treatment system. But according to the researchers, neither of these advisories accounted for risk to the sewer workers. “While current WHO and CDC guidance for disposal of liquid waste from patients undergoing treatment for Ebola virus disease at hospitals in the U.S. is to manage patient excreta as ordinary wastewater without pretreatment. The potential for Ebolavirus transmission via liquid waste discharged into the wastewater environment is currently unknown,” the authors write. “Possible worker inhalation exposure to Ebolavirus-contaminated aerosols in the sewer continues to be a concern within the wastewater treatment community.” The team arrived at its conclusions by first talking to workers at urban wastewater treatment facilities to understand where and under what conditions they might come in contact with untreated sewage aerosols. The researchers then looked at previous Ebola data to create a model of its behavior under similar conditions — from which they conducted a standardized microbial risk assessment analysis that was developed by Haas. It took into account variables such as the amount of waste produced during a treatment period, the degree to which it is diluted, the length of time between its disposal at the hospital and when sewer workers would encounter it and the concentration of viable viruses that could be in the air at treatment facilities. A worker’s risk of exposure varies with the time spent in the contaminated area and whether or not they’re wearing properly fitting protective gear — so the team looked at what the exposure risk would be given a range of protection and viral particle concentration scenarios. “Under the least-favorable scenario, the potential risk of developing Ebola virus disease from inhalation exposure is a value higher than many risk managers may be willing to accept,” they report. “Although further data gathering efforts are necessary to improve the prevision of the risk projections, the results suggest that the potential risk that sewer workers face when operating in a wastewater collection system downstream from a hospital receiving Ebola patients warrants further attention and current authoritative guidance for Ebolavirus liquid waste disposal may be insufficiently protective of sewer worker safety.” While this study suggests that new guidelines from the leading public health authorities are likely in order, the researchers acknowledge that their work is part of the iterative process of understanding how to safely contain and treat the virus. This study builds on Haas and Bibby’s previous work, which has shaped the way experts understand Ebola risk. Their research on how long Ebola can survive outside the body raised important questions about how exposure can occur and how long patients should be quarantined. “We find this area of risk assessment to be particularly vital because of the preponderance of questions that remain about how long Ebolavirus can survive outside the body,” Haas said. “One thing we do know from previous research is that it is possible to inhale the virus to cause a risk — and it wouldn’t take much. At this point we haven’t seen a confirmed case of somebody contracting Ebola in this way, and our hope is that this work can contribute to revised guidelines that will keep it that way.” ###
Author: Britt Faulstick, Drexel University (britt.faulstick@drexel.edu, 215.895.2617)

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