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. 

Read our latest newsletter below



Nov
27
2018

A Life Cycle Solution to Energy Impacts

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (November 27, 2018) … Pennsylvania’s energy history is rich with the quantities of fossil fuels that it has produced, but is also rife with the environmental legacies of coal mining and, more recently, hydrofracturing. Water that finds its way into abandoned coal mines dotted throughout the Commonwealth resurfaces as acid mine drainage (AMD), while freshwater used to fracture or “frack” oil and natural gas deposits reemerges as “produced” water contaminated with salts, metals, and radioactive material. Remediating both AMD and produced water is an expensive process and federal law prohibits produced water disposal at municipal water treatment plants. However, research from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, published recently in Environmental Science & Technology, found that co-treatment of the two fluids may not only solve two environmental issues at once, but also reduce the environmental impact of both legacy wastes. Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, is principal investigator of the research, “Life Cycle Impact and Benefit Tradeoffs of a Produced Water and Abandoned Mine Drainage Co-Treatment Process” (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b03773). The article, authored by graduate student Yan Wang, incorporates related research by her Swanson School colleagues, Radisav Vidic, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Associate Professor Vikas Khanna. “This study is the serendipitous result of three different researchers finding a common theme to unite the collaboration. Radisav’s group developed the method for co-treating AMD and produced water and he is a leading researcher in the field of produced water treatment via membrane distillation, while Vikas’s group focuses on complex systems analysis,” Dr. Gilbertson explained. “My expertise in life cycle assessment brings a new perspective to these industries and a way to quantify the environmental and human health impact tradeoffs of alternative approaches to utilizing these two wastewaters.” Dr. Gilbertson and her group focused on a five county region of southwestern Pennsylvania impacted by both AMD and hydrofracturing – Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland counties. The research targeted three critical, mutual aspects of remediation – co-treatment of produced water and AMD, transportation of water to and from mine and drill sites, and avoiding AMD discharge to the environment. Dr. Gilbertson’s LCA found that co-treating AMD and produced water is beneficial because, while the chemical composition of each fluid varies from site to site, the two byproducts share opposite amounts of barium and sulfates which, when combined, can be removed via precipitation. The resulting fluid can then be used to replace freshwater in future fracking operations while the barite produced by this process can be used in drilling operations. Dr. Gilbertson noted that this result is important because it creates value of out two significant waste products and precludes environmental impacts of AMD. “While the combined produced water volume from fracking is 4,450 cubic meters per day, there is a staggering 281,000 cubic meters of orphaned AMD produced daily in the region. Mitigating the two via co-treatment would result in reduced freshwater use and become a net environmental benefit.” But even with the potential positive impact of co-treatment, transporting the fluids between mining and drilling sites could create a significant, negative tradeoff. It will be a balance between the proposed and current handling of produced water, which his often transported significant distances for treatment, or out of state for disposal via large trucks logging several hundred thousand miles per year. To minimize these significant impacts, which include not only fuel use but also road wear and truck exhaust, Dr. Khanna and his PhD student, Sakineh Tavakoli, developed a model to identify the optimal locations for co-treatment sites between AMD and gas wells in the five-county region. Although costs associated with optimized co-treatment may be higher than using freshwater, the environmental benefits could be significant. Another potential option currently being piloted by Drs. Vidic and Khanna is a mobile membrane distillation system that would be powered by waste heat generated during drilling to treat produced water on site. And although the optimization model was developed using mining and gas well sites in the five-county region, the researchers note that this approach can be applied to other areas in Pennsylvania, and throughout the U.S. using similar data. Ms. Wang added that what is novel about this research is that the group attempted to quantify the benefits of not releasing AMD into ecosystems and the environment. “These are “credits” to the system that you wouldn’t necessarily think about. For example, by utilizing AMD as a fracking fluid, we’re greatly reducing the amount of freshwater that would be wasted. Similarly, by optimizing transportation routes and developing mobile treatment sites, we are significantly reducing the environmental impact of long-haul trucking,” Ms. Wang said. “Most importantly, by using AMD as a resource, we are helping to mitigate a legacy waste from the environment that then improves remediation efforts. In short, the cascade effect of co-treating these two waste products can be a net benefit for Pennsylvania.” ### Figure above: Life cycle assessment of a pilot-scale produced water and abandoned mine drainage co-treatment process identifies electricity use as the dominate contribution to environmental and human health impacts of the process. A system boundary extension to include transportation demonstrates its significant impact and a system optimization model was employed to identify how transportation can be minimized for a region in Southwest Pennsylvania, providing insights into future implementation of this co-treatment approach. Reprinted with permission from Environmental Science & Technology. Copyright 2018 American Chemical Society. Figure above: Total distance traveled for each optimization scenario, including a single co-treatment location up to five co-treatment sites. The optimum locations of co-treatment sites are indicated by yellow triangles and were determined by grouping all five counties together (single location) or four, three, two, and one county, respectively, located in Southwest Pennsylvania. For the case of two co-treatment sites, Allegheny, Washington, and Greene counties are combined as one region and Fayette and Westmoreland as the other region since this grouping results in minimum total transportation distance compared to other two-region combinations. For the case of three co-treatment plants, Washington and Allegheny counties are combined as one region, Fayette and Greene are combined as the second region, and Westmoreland county represents the third region. For the case of four co-treatment sites, Washington and Allegheny are combined as one region while Westmoreland, Fayette, and Greene counties represent the three other regions. Reprinted with permission from Environmental Science & Technology. Copyright 2018 American Chemical Society. About Leanne GilbertsonDr. Gilbertson’s research group (www.leannegilbertson.com and @lmglab) aims to inform sustainable design of emerging materials and products, ensuring their inherent safety while simultaneously realizing an improved or novel functional performance. To date, her group has focused on nanomaterials and nano-enabled products spanning molecular level design to systems-level analysis. At the molecular level, Gilbertson’s research probes interactions at the material-bio interface using carefully controlled and characterized material and biological systems to isolate governing mechanisms of the interaction as a path towards material manipulation for an intended outcome. Recognizing that materials are utilized in many environmental applications with tangible benefits, yet themselves have the potential to introduce adverse impacts, her group uses life cycle assessment as a tool to define the design space in which these products are able to meet or exceed the desired functionality while also being safe to humans and the environment. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hamilton College in 2007 and serving several years as a secondary school teacher, Dr. Gilbertson earned her PhD in environmental engineering from Yale University in 2014 with support from a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and an EPA STAR Fellowship. Her doctoral research identified underlying material properties that govern carbon nanotube cytotoxicity serving as a foundation for the development of safer nanomaterial design guidelines. 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. She is a recipient of the 3M non-tenured faculty award, the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award and also the 2016 ES&T Excellence in Review Award from Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T).

Nov
8
2018

Pitt’s IRISE consortium hosts first brainstorming session to map out infrastructure research strategies

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (November 8, 2018) … This past October the Impactful Resilient Infrastructure Science and Engineering (IRISE) research consortium kicked off the planning process for its 2019 research program by conducting a brainstorming session at the University of Pittsburgh campus. More than 35 transportation engineering professionals from the public, private and academic sectors joined together to present and discuss highway transportation infrastructure problems, issues and research possibilities. Founded in summer 2018 by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, IRISE utilizes the department’s expertise in transportation infrastructure to address challenges faced by industry and government agencies. Its mission is to engage in public-private collaboration while employing a systems approach toward optimizing infrastructure solutions. Julie Vandenbossche, associate professor and IRISE director, noted that the brainstorming participants discussed a wide range of problems and issues including those pertaining to compliance with new storm water requirements, understanding of infrastructure life cycle costs, structural health monitoring, performance of various types of pavement designs and overlays, bridge corrosion, landslide predictability, reducing road closure time and many others. During the session, Pitt faculty presented their qualifications and contributed additional research ideas. Dr. Vandenbossche explained that the ideas generated during the session will be considered as IRISE works with its Steering Committee members to determine the research priorities over the coming months. “We particularly appreciated everyone's willingness to share ideas with each other,” she said. “The exchange of information among different agencies and private organizations is exactly what the IRISE concept is trying to promote.” Allegheny County Manager William D. McKain stated, “I congratulate Pitt on its first IRISE meeting —-people were really engaged and the exchange of ideas and information provided a wonderful starting point for IRISE to build on and have great collaborations and meaningful outcomes.” The ideas discussed during the inaugural meeting will help in part to produce solutions that lead to more durable, longer lasting transportation infrastructure, Dr. Vandenbossche explained. In particular, solutions will be driven by: Providing safe, efficient and affordable transportation Maintaining accessibility to services, such as healthcare, at all times Meeting quality of life needs when planning projects. Improving roadway infrastructure durability should have a minimal cost to environmental health and quality of life. Additionally, Swanson School faculty will also collaborate with researchers from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health and the School of Computing and Information to leverage a cross-disciplinary approach to solutions.“Infrastructure and transportation have traditionally been very siloed, with government, industry, utilities and engineers focusing on their own issues and problems without necessarily taking a holistic approach that improves day-to-day life for the people who use these systems,” noted James R. Martin II, the U.S. Steel Dean on Engineering. “As a researcher with a long career in civil engineering, projects like the IRISE consortium are a great example of how universities like Pitt are leveraging faculty expertise across many fields to help public and private organizations address transportation issues for the betterment of society.”For more information, visit engineering.pitt.edu/irise. ###

Oct
31
2018

Engineering Student Athletes: Jake Scarton

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

Jake Scarton Sport: Football Position: Kicker Major: Civil Engineering Class: Sophomore Hometown: Hermitage, Pennsylvania “You really have to keep up on your work during the week because you don’t have a weekend. Fridays you’re in a hotel all day, Saturdays you’re focused only on the game, and Sundays you have practice. You’re forced to be a good time manager. I was a good student in high school, but this is the first time in my life I’m starting papers three weeks in advance.” “Making Game Plans” Jake Scarton graduated high school sixth in his class with a 4.2 GPA and entered the Swanson School of Engineering with a good idea of what he wanted to study. “I like to work with my hands and be outside. My dad was a banker, but we lived on a farm. He was handy and did wood working. He really inspired me to want to create and build things,” he says. When he arrived at Pitt, Scarton started down the path of civil engineering and hasn’t looked back. Turning down offers from several Division I and Division II schools in favor of Pitt, Scarton didn’t have any doubts about walking on to the team. However, unlike his plan to study civil engineering, joining the football team wasn’t necessarily in Scarton’s playbook. He says, “I never intended to play Division I football. It wasn’t my goal or a dream as a kid. I’m just lucky to be on the team.” Only in his second year, Scarton’s already coming up with a strategy for fulfilling his academic and professional goals. “I just started classes in civil engineering, but I’m really enjoying the construction management courses I’m taking right now,” he says. “I’ll be here for four more years since I redshirted my freshman year. I’d like to go for a graduate degree like an MBA, so I’ll be well-prepared after for the work force after graduation.” Noteworthy 4.2 GPA (high school) 150+ hours community service 2x first team all-region (high school) 1x first team all-region (high school) Volunteer Kicking Coach, Kohl's Kicking Redshirt 2017-18 Volunteer at veteran's home A Typical Day 6:15 am: Wake up 7:00 am: Team breakfast 7:45 am: Meetings/film 9:00 - 11:30 am: Practice 12:00 pm: Team lunch 1:00 pm: Class 2:00 pm: Homework 4:00 pm: Class or lift 6:00 pm:     Homework and dinner 11:00 pm:     Sleep Note: This is part three of a four-part series about student-athletes at the Swanson School of Engineering. Part four will appear on the SSOE website on November 7, 2018. Part One: https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/News/2018/Craig-Bair-Soccer-Profile/ Part Two: https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/News/2018/Madeline-Hobbs-Soccer-Profile/ ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Oct
30
2018

Distilling a Solution for Fracking Wastewater

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (October 30, 2018) … Research led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering may have cracked the code to not only greatly reduce the amount of fresh water used in the multi-billion-dollar hydrofracturing industry, but also leverage the waste heat available at drilling sites and natural gas compressor stations to safely treat shale gas wastewater (SGWW) for reuse. As part of “Deploying Intensified, Automated, Mobile, Operable, and Novel Designs (DIAMOND) for Treating Shale Gas Wastewater,” a $5.3 million award from the Department of Energy (DOE) RAPID Manufacturing Institute, the Pitt team was awarded $1.76 million to conduct pilot testing of membrane distillation technology in the Marcellus and Utica Shale. Collaborators include Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Austin and U.S. Clean Water Technology, while industry partners are Pittsburgh-based EQT and Aquatech International, Boston’s Gradiant Corporation, and Glen Allen, Va.’s Markel Corporation. Additionally, a $0.7 million DOE award to Gas Technology Institute (GTI) will support efforts by the Pitt team ($0.445 million) to expand this study to the Permian Basin of West Texas. Leading the research is Radisav Vidic, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Swanson School, with co-PI and Associate Professor Vikas Khanna. “Hydrofracturing, originally developed to drill for oil deposits deep within rock formations, has in the past decade created a new energy boom in the U.S. thanks to its use in natural gas extraction, especially in Pennsylvania and Texas,” Dr. Vidic explained. “However, the vast amounts of water needed to fracture or “frack” the rock formations and extract the fossil fuels both wastes a valuable resource and results in wastewater contaminated with various salts and metals. This water is either shipped offsite for disposal, or is reused as a fracking fluid at a new well.” One key element of the DIAMOND mobile treatment is a membrane distillation technology, which has not been practical in the past because of high energy intensity and cost. “We have been working to adapt this technology to SGWW for more than 5 years and have obtained excellent results in the laboratory using real wastewater to produce very high quality finished water. Membrane distillation requires heating the feed wastewater, which is extremely expensive,” said Dr. Vidic. “However, the unconventional oil and gas industry generates a great amount of waste heat during compression or flaring of excess gas. Instead of losing this heat to the atmosphere, we can use it to power the membrane distillation on site making the process economically very promising.”“A unique aspect of this project is a systems-level integration of waste heat sources with SGWW generation locations to identify and exploit regional synergies and opportunities for utilizing the waste heat to treat SGWW,” said Dr. Khanna. “This is a win-win scenario where we are using available unexploited waste heat to treat SGWW and simultaneously producing high quality water that could be used for agriculture and other industries. “Rather than building treatment units at individual drilling sites or a large centralized treatment facility in the Marcellus and Utica formations in the Northeast or the Permian Basin in the South and Plains states, we can modularize the process. This has the advantage of reducing capital investment as well as the need to transport SGWW to a centralized treatment facility,” Dr. Khanna said. “This enables us to create a flexible and adaptable framework for natural gas-producing companies to access on a site-by-site basis.”Because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prohibits the disposal of SGWW in any body of water, Dr. Vidic notes that effective, economic disposal is a pinch point for industry. “Our preliminary experimental and techno-economic assessment studies have shown promising results for economical and environmentally conscious management of SGWW using membrane distillation,” said Dr. Vidic. “In Pennsylvania, for example, drillers may use wastewater to frack the next well, but when you run out of new wells to frack, you still need to deal with SGWW that is generated by the producing wells. Meanwhile in a drought region like Texas where water is an even more precious commodity, the wastewater is disposed of in deep wells, Dr. Vidic said.“In either case, transporting freshwater and wastewater back and forth is not only expensive, but unsustainable in the long term. Our collaborators are greatly vested in this technology because it is more economical and sustainable, and reduces risk to the environment, while securing our country’s vast energy resources for decades.” Other research investigators include: Texas A&M University Mahmoud M. El-Halwagi, McFerrin Professor of Chemical Engineering and Managing Director of the Texas A&M Gas and Fuels Research Center Lucy Mar Camacho, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering Joseph Kwon, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Debalina Sengupta, Associate Director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Gas and Fuels Research Center University of Texas at Austin Joan F. Brennecke, Cockrell Chair in Engineering Benny D. Freeman, Richard B. Curran Centennial Chair in Engineering Mark A. Stadtherr, Research Professor US Clean Water Technology Kurt Swogger, CEO Phil Carlberg, Chief Scientist ### About RAPIDIn December 2016, the Department of Energy announced the establishment of the 10th Manufacturing USA Institute, representing a critical step in the federal government’s effort to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030. The Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Institute is focused on addressing the barriers listed above to enable the development of breakthrough technologies to boost energy productivity and energy efficiency through manufacturing processes in industries such oil and gas, pulp and paper and various domestic chemical manufacturers. RAPID will leverage approaches to modular chemical process intensification (MCPI) — such as combining multiple process steps such as mixing, reaction, and separation into single more complex and intensified processes — with the goal of improving productivity and efficiency, cutting operating costs, and reducing waste.

Oct
4
2018

Capping Off Another Successful Year

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

Within the first week of returning to campus each semester, about three dozen civil engineering seniors gather to brainstorm project ideas and construct teams for the Senior Design Course. They will spend the next 15 weeks transforming their ideas into implementable projects complete with detailed plans for all the anticipated, and many of the unforeseeable, challenges that come with creating the next successful improvement to society’s infrastructure. Each semester concludes with an hour-long presentation emphasizing student professionalism and a strong ability to communicate months of intensive work to an audience of classmates, professors, and professional engineers. If everything goes as planned, the final presentation marks the transition from civil engineering student to civil engineer.“Before moving on to the next stage of their development, students must demonstrate through the course that they have learned a great deal in their classes and an ability to apply what they learned to challenges they might not have seen before,” says Radisav Vidic, chair of the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “For this reason, the Senior Design Course is the epitome of our undergraduate education.”Designing the Right Idea“Every project is interesting, or we wouldn’t do it,” says John Oyler, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. Dr. Oyler has been involved with Pitt’s Senior Design Course as coordinator for the past 27 years. All senior engineering students must complete the course during their final semesters, so Dr. Oyler has helped hundreds of Pitt engineers take their final steps toward graduation. However, not every idea starts out as a hole-in-one. “Last semester we had a team who wanted to redesign the golf course in Schenley Park. I told them, ‘You have to explain to me why this is worth doing.’ They came up with a strong proposal to support their ideas and managed to prove to us that this is really a full-blown civil engineering project that would really benefit people who used the course,” says Dr. Oyler.Another idea grew out of the department’s increasingly popular construction management program. The team specifically wanted to undertake a large project with wide scope. They found a match based on a suggestion by John Sebastian, professor of civil and environmental engineering. The idea was to devise a feasible plan for converting a former industrial site along Pittsburgh’s North Shore into a booming business and recreational district.“Thanks to Professor Sebastian, we were able to get information on a project in the works that is much too big for anybody—or at least any one group,” Dr. Oyler says. “When these students gave their presentation, it became clear somebody has to be the brains behind a project, regardless how big it is, and they were the right ones for the job.”During the spring semester of 2018, student teams came up with plans to improve and update a multipurpose campus building, design a microbrewery on the Monongahela River, and map out a revitalization strategy for a state park. One of the teams decided to focus on a major highway interchange and found the right combination of specialties was the best way to keep things running smoothly.Intersecting Disciplines“The ideal team is multidisciplinary. When we build a team, we try to represent as many different specialties as we can,” explains Dr. Oyler.Last semester, TBD Engineering formed to approach one of Pittsburgh most ubiquitous and infuriating infrastructure problems: traffic jams. The students targeted the Interstate 79 and State Route 51 interchange near Neville Island, northwest of Pittsburgh. “We were trying to decide on a project, and when someone suggested redesigning the interchange, one of our team members, Nick Bruni, jumped at the opportunity to fix it,” says Amedeo Hirata, team leader of TBD Engineering. “He lives near the intersection and has to drive through it every day.” A digital render of TBD Engineering's proposed design solution for the Interstate 79 and State Route 51 interchange. The students used infrastructure design software called AutoDesk InfraWorks to help complete the project. The two heavily-trafficked highways lack several features needed to qualify their meeting as a full interchange. When driving southbound on I-79, there is no direct route to transfer onto PA-51. As a result, commuters are forced to take an eight to 15-minute detour through Neville Island which increases overall travel and congestion. By studying crash reports, they also found the northbound on ramp to I-79 from PA-51 had inadequate merging and sight distances. As a result, it is responsible for a high number of incidents. “Right now the intersection is kind of a free-for-all, and traffic backups can stretch for up to a mile and a half during rush hour. We did lots of research and decided to propose a new design configuration called a ‘single point urban interchange.’ The proposal included a traffic light to reduce the number of potential crash zones without slowing things down,” says Hirata. Hirata handled the structural design component while working with teammates specializing in geometric, transportation, and geotechnical design as well as construction management. He says the team quickly reached a consensus that their composition was the right fit for completing the project. “As a team leader, I was really motivated to choose teammates who were recognized as the best students in my graduating class. This was my favorite undergraduate course because of the amount of freedom we were allowed right off the bat and the experience of collaborating in an environment with so many talented people,” Hirata says. Looking Forward to the Future “The Senior Design projects are not replicas of the design problems students have already seen in their other courses,” says Dr. Oyler. “The students are completing projects in the same way a project is completed outside of the classroom. By the end of the semester, they must have shown their capability to bring a project completely from start to finish.” Each semester brings a new cohort of students and project ideas waiting for cultivation. In fall 2018, one idea gaining traction is working with Allegheny County representatives to clean mine drainage pollution in Plum Borough’s Boyce Park. Another project has students looking to reduce flooding in Bridgeville in the wake of the June 20th storm, which damaged many structures and caused one fatality. Regardless of the individual challenges, all senior design teams will have to find a way to combine their knowledge a variety of civil engineering specialties into a plans for improving surrounding communities and the lives of the people that live there. “As civil engineers, we have an obligation to design, build, and maintain society’s infrastructure. The closest we can get these projects to that objective is always the goal,” says Dr. Oyler. ###
by Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

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