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. 

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In memory of Dr. Karl Lewis, PhD, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering (retired) and founder of the Pitt Engineering IMPACT Program

Civil & Environmental

Professor Emeritus Karl H. Lewis, a doctor of philosophy in Civil Engineering who played a pivotal role in changing the cultural diversity of engineers produced at the University of Pittsburgh, died on March 5, 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA. He was 83. Born on January 15, 1936 in St. Lawrence, Barbados to Everett and Ione Lewis, Karl was known as “Kirby” by his secondary school classmates in Barbados because he was great at most things he put his mind and hands to do, similar to Rick Kirby who was a superman comic in England. Before coming to United States from Barbados, he was a Victor ludorum (Latin for “the winner of games.”) as well as captain of the Cricket and football teams. Arriving in America, Karl lived in New York City with his aunt. He went to Howard University where he majored in Civil Engineering. Subsequently, in 1966, he received his PhD in Civil Engineering with specialization in Geotechnical from Purdue University and then accepted a tenured track professorship at the University of Pittsburgh. A faculty member for less than 5 years, Lewis founded the Pitt Engineering IMPACT Program in 1969 to recruit, retain and successfully graduate black and other underrepresented engineers. He officially retired in 1999, but remained very active at the University of Pittsburgh until recently. Passion, mentorship and intellectual generosity “In the 173-year history of engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, few professors have had such a tremendous impact on the careers and lives of engineers around the globe, as did Dr. Karl Lewis. His legacy of engineering education and his contributions to the profession are respected by generations of engineers who, to a person, note his passion, mentorship, and encouragement," said, James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of the Swanson School of Engineering. "For so many Pitt alumni, Dr. Lewis was and always will be the face and spirit of engineering. His focus on mutual support – which purposefully taught students to learn from each other, and not simply from a textbook – imbued a sense of humanity within our profession, one that we must revisit as we educate the next generation of engineers. "I personally feel a direct connection to the pioneering efforts of Dr. Lewis, who by virtue of tireless efforts created a safe, fertile space in which a diverse community could take root, grow and begin to flourish. He built a bridge to a better future. It is our mission to do the same. "May we all be better engineers – and better people – for the wealth of life that Dr. Lewis shared with us.” Enduring contribution to fundamental issues about equal access Dr. Lewis’ work centered largely on ensuring all students were afforded the right to be the best in their profession. From IMPACT students to students in Civil Engineering, he helped everyone the same regardless of race, religion or national origin. As an immigrant in America, he understood the struggles of equal access so he wanted to ensure everyone received the same level of support with the same level of dignity. Although he officially retired almost 20 years ago, Dr. Lewis maintained a relationship with his former colleagues, students and Swanson School of Engineering alumni. His generosity was far reaching. IMPACT became a big success story for the University. As early as 1975, IMPACT had been recognized by agencies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science as one of the outstanding science-engineering projects of its type. IMPACT was one of the first two recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Achievement in Affirmative Action. It has also received excellent ratings from the PA Department of Education. A 2001 study conducted by the Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies, Inc. (AAES) showed the University’s commitment to recruiting women and minorities was successful. Pitt’s Engineering program was ranked first in the State in total number of Black engineering graduates. Nationally, Pitt ranked third out of more than 600 schools the AAES surveyed in the United States in the number of engineering doctorates awarded to Blacks. It was also ranked 22nd in the number of engineering Bachelor of Science degrees and in the overall number of engineering degrees awarded to Blacks. IMPACT became the model for other predominantly White institutions (PWI) that were looking to increase the number of minority students that successfully graduated with an engineering degree. In 2004, an IMPACT alumnus established an endowment in Dr. Lewis’s honor at the University of Pittsburgh, named the Dr. Karl H. Lewis Engineering IMPACT Alumni Endowed Fund. Following the momentum of the endowment, Dr. Lewis was nominated by a couple of his former IMPACT students and received a Golden Torch Lifetime Achievement in Academia Award in 2006 from the National Society of Black Engineers in recognition of his work to increase the number of minority students in engineering. In addition, he was entered into the Swanson School of Engineering’s Hall of Fame the same year. Dr. Lewis often said, “I didn’t want recognition. I just wanted to change the system. Some people came back and thanked me, but that wasn’t my point. I had people that helped me change the narrative. People like to help people that help people. Since IMPACT was successful, we had a lot of support. Mr. K. Leroy Irvis became a very close friend of mine and one of my biggest supporters.” Family pride and joy Karl Lewis’ biggest achievement was his loving family. He often shared stories of his son Kirby excelling in engineering and law at the greatest institutions in the world. His yearly visits, driving from Pittsburgh to Boston with a pit stop in New York, to see his beautiful granddaughters was the center of his pride and joy. Everyone knew Karl as a private man, but if you ever had the chance to hear him speak of his family you would have witnessed how his face always lit up when he shared stories about them and their accomplishments. He wanted most for his family to be secure. His past-time was day trading. Karl said he did this because an engineering salary wasn’t enough to retire on, so he wanted to ensure that his family had financial security. Many of his students had conversations with Karl once they started their career and he would emphatically share the importance of saving and investing in the early years of their career. He shared his discipline of reading the Wall Street Journal daily and watching the markets. Karl emphasized building financial wealth to leave a legacy for your family. Anyone that knew Karl understood his love for his family and ensuring they were better off than he was growing up. Karl’s grandmother sent him to New York to live with his aunt so he could have a better life than what he could achieve in Barbados. That never stopped him from loving his country. He often commented how beautiful his country was and enjoyed visiting there with his family. He is survived by his lovely wife Gretchen; son Kirby (Janelle) of McLean, VA; grandchildren: Alexandra, Evelyn, and Veronica; beloved siblings: Doris E. Green of Queens, NY (1 nephew and 4 nieces in Doris’ family); Gloria “June” Lewis-Callender of Laurelton, NY (1 nephew and 1 niece in June’s family); Grace White of Queens, NY; Neville Lewis of Corona, CA; brother in-law Karl Schultz of Sherwood, OR; and a host of IMPACT alumni. A memorial service is planned for Friday, June 21, 2019, at 7:30 PM at the Heinz Chapel at the University of Pittsburgh.


2019 Carnegie Science Awards include six honorees from the Swanson School of Engineering

Bioengineering, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (March 12, 2019) ... Each year, Carnegie Science Center celebrates some of the Pittsburgh region’s most inspiring science and technology innovators with the Carnegie Science Awards. Today, the Science Center announced the recipient of the Chairman’s Award and the winners and honorable mentions in 16 categories, who will be celebrated at the 23rd Annual Carnegie Science Awards Celebration on Friday, May 10, 2019. Carnegie Science Award winners are selected by a committee of peers—both past awardees and industry leaders—who rigorously reviewed more than 200 nominations and selected the most deserving scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, communicators, educators, and students whose contributions have led to significant economic or societal benefit in western Pennsylvania. This year’s exceptional innovators include a tuition-free technical education program that has connected thousands of unemployed and underemployed individuals to a job and living wage; a graduate student who trains residents in under-served neighborhoods to identify environmental concerns in their homes; a team that created an open-source database that will assist research teams in taking energy-saving action to reduce methane leaks; and the fastest-growing food recovery organization in the country whose app brings fresh food to those who need it most. “The Carnegie Science Awards provide an opportunity to celebrate the remarkably talented individuals and organizations in our region’s science community,” said Jason Brown, Henry Buhl, Jr., Interim Director of Carnegie Science Center. “These innovators have had immeasurable impact on Pittsburgh’s healthcare, manufacturing, energy, environmental, and education industries. Their achievements, dedication, and perseverance are truly inspiring.” Winners and honorable mentions along with three student winners who will be selected later this month at the Covestro Pittsburgh Regional Science & Engineering Fair, will be honored during the 23rd Annual Carnegie Science Awards Celebration at Carnegie Science Center on Friday, May 10, 2019. The Swanson School recipients include: Life Sciences: Dr. William J. Federspiel, William Kepler Whiteford Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Dr. Federspiel is an internationally recognized pioneer, innovator, and technical expert in the medical devices arena. His research has led to the design and development of novel artificial lung devices, membrane and particle-based blood purification devices, and oxygen depletion devices for blood storage systems. His success lies in his commitment to ensure that each project begins with and is supported by a strong foundation in life science and engineering. His contributions have strengthened Pittsburgh’s stance as a hub for medical device development and manufacturing, and his work has led to the formation of new companies that provide more than 50 high-tech jobs to the Western Pennsylvania region. Leadership in Career and Technical Education: University of Pittsburgh Manufacturing Assistance Center Since 1994, the University of Pittsburgh Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC) has connected thousands of people with meaningful careers in manufacturing. The programs at MAC are accelerated and often available at no cost to the students, so unemployed and underemployed individuals can be connected to a job and a living wage in as little as six weeks. In addition, MAC has strengthened career pathways for high school students across Southwestern Pennsylvania by offering certification opportunities to partnering high schools and career and technical centers. With the opening of the MAC Makerspace in 2018, MAC has provided a place for future manufacturers to engage with technological tools and resources that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. College/University Student: Harold Rickenbacker, Swanson School Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation While pursuing his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh, Harold has integrated engineering and environmental justice with community-based organizations to address the pressing issue of indoor and ambient air quality in under-served Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Through an initiative in Pittsburgh’s East End called the Environmental Justice Community Alert Matrix, Harold led trainings to provide over 200 residents with the technical knowledge to identify environmental concerns within their homes, while detailing the importance of addressing environmental sustainability at the nexus of water use, energy consumption, and air pollution. Harold is committed to paying it forward, and his efforts are improving the health and quality of life of the communities he works with for years to come. Honorable Mentions: Postsecondary Educator – Bryan Brown, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering College/University Student – Alexis Nolfi BSBioE ‘11 BSPsych ‘11, Department of Bioengineering PhD Candidate Science Communicator – Paul Kovach, Director of Marketing and Communications, Swanson School of Engineering About Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Established in 1895 by Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is a collection of four distinctive museums: Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum. In 2017, the museums reached more than 1.4 million people through exhibitions, educational programs, outreach activities, and special events. ###
Kaitlyn Zurcher, Carnegie Science Center Senior Manager of Marketing

Pitt engineer receives $500K NSF CAREER Award to investigate potentially harmful man-made chemicals

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (February 25, 2019) … Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that are useful in a variety of industries because of their durability, but do not naturally break down in the environment or human body. With evidence showing that PFAS may have adverse effects on human health, Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, wants to further investigate the potential impacts of these chemicals and identify ways to remove them from the environment. She received a five-year, $500,000 NSF CAREER award to pursue this research. Because of their useful oil- and water-repellent properties, PFAS are used in many consumer products, industrial processes, and in firefighting foams, but unfortunately, their manufacturing and widespread use has contributed to the undesired release of these chemicals into the environment. According to Dr. Ng, more than 4,000 different kinds of PFAS may have been for decades, and detailed toxicity data does not exist for the large majority of these. “One of the pressing concerns with PFAS is its adverse effects on human health,” said Dr. Ng. “Conventional drinking water treatment is not effective at removing most PFAS from water so they can build up in the bodies of humans and wildlife, disrupt normal development, and impair the immune system. Some PFAS have been associated with increases in kidney and testicular cancers in humans.” The goal of Dr. Ng’s CAREER award is to address these issues through a complementary approach using predictive modeling and experiments. “In this project, we will use molecular and organism-scale models to conduct large-scale predictive screening of PFAS hazards,” said Dr. Ng. “With the information gathered from our predictive models about the structure-interaction relationships, we will design new bio-inspired sorbents to remove PFAS from water. “Because we have so little information about potentially thousands of these substances, we cannot experimentally assess each one; the costs would simply be too great in time, testing, and resources,” continued Dr. Ng. “This is where models can be very powerful tools because they allow researchers to concurrently conduct virtual experiments on many chemicals. When these models are tied to targeted experiments, their predictions can be evaluated and the models improved to be more accurate.” Beyond understanding the effects of these chemicals, models can also provide clues on how to remove them from the environment. Dr. Ng will employ the very characteristics that make PFAS so dangerous against them. By using her models to discover which biological molecules react strongly with PFAS, her group will be able to design a new class of selective sorbents that remove them from water in an efficient and targeted way. She hopes that the knowledge gained during this five-year CAREER award will also help identify hazardous properties in future chemicals. An important objective of this CAREER award is to engage middle and high school students in STEM research by exposing them to the power of modeling and simulation. To do so, Dr. Ng will implement formal educational programs and informal STEM outreach. She plans to elevate K-12 and undergraduate education through the use of collaborative model-building in a game-like environment. “The agent-based modeling language NetLogo is a freely available and accessible model-building tool that can be equally powerful for cutting edge research or for students exploring new concepts in science and engineering while learning useful model-building and coding skills,” said Dr. Ng. “I hope to enhance systems-level thinking and self-confidence among students in STEM so that we can cultivate diverse cohorts of future STEM leaders.” ###


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. ###


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

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