Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Welcome to the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department’s website! 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. 

Nov
12
2019

Swanson School Student Startups Forge Ahead

Bioengineering, Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (November 12, 2019) … Engineering students seek to innovate and design solutions to solve unmet needs in society. Taking an idea from design to development can be a tricky process, but participating in a business incubator can provide a solid launch to successful startups. The University of Pittsburgh provides services to help cultivate students’ creativity, and now, they have announced the Forge - a student startup incubator. The Forge is run by the Innovation Institute’s Big Idea Center, an on-campus student entrepreneurship hub that offers acceleration, incubation, mentoring, networking, competitions, and events to help students progress their innovations. The incubator will provide up to two years of support as the student groups solidify business plans and build beta versions or prototypes of their products and services. According to the Innovation Institute, it is open to students of all levels – freshman to postdoc – across every school at the University, as well as recent graduates who have completed previously required programming and competitions through the Big Idea Center. “We are excited to add a capstone to our continuum of programming and services to help Pitt student innovators bring their big ideas to life and launch them into the world,” said Babs Carryer, director of the Big Idea Center. Three Swanson School of Engineering student teams were selected for the first Forge cohort. Posture Protect A project that started in the Swanson School’s Art of Making course has navigated through several competitions and received awards from the Swanson School Design Expo, the Innovation Institute’s Startup Blitz, and the Randall Family Big Idea Competition. Tyler Bray and Jacob Meadows, both bioengineering seniors, lead their design team in developing the technology and business strategy for a product that helps people maintain their health in old age. Their initial target market is physical therapists who see people with movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. “Our mission is to help people to be more proactive and engaged in their own healthcare,” said Meadows. “We’ve learned more than we could’ve imagined in this process about business, design, teamwork, and even ourselves. Posture Protect is excited to continue our human-centered, data-driven approach to build impactful and accessible health technology products for people who need them the most.” Heart I/O This project is a digital diagnostics startup led by bioengineering graduate students Utkars Jain and Adam Butchy. Their “smarter cardiac triage” technology uses artificial intelligence to detect problems with a patient’s heart more quickly and accurately at a fraction of the cost of current technology. “ECGs are one of the first tests that patients reporting with chest pain receive, and I thought that if I could equip ECGs with the computational power of artificial intelligence, I could improve the accuracy of diagnoses,” said Jain. In 2019, the Heart I/O team was a prize winner in the Randall Family Big Idea Competition and also participated in the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition. Trek Biology and chemical engineering major Emily Siegel won the 2019 Randall Family Big Idea grand prize with a biodegradable chewing gum for on-the-go toothbrushing. According to a story from PittWire, Siegel envisions that this product not only will benefit busy millennials, but also will appeal to travelers, members of the military and people in places where clean water is difficult to come by. In addition to the $25,000 grand prize from the Big Idea Competition, Trek also received a $1,500 award from the Big Idea Blitz. Click here to learn more about the Forge and all nine of the selected teams. ###

Oct
21
2019

Rallying the Algae Warriors on an International Stage

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Oct. 21, 2019) — Kareem Rabbat (CEE ’20), a student at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, is driven to make a global impact. He is also no stranger to out-of-the-box ideas, or to working under pressure. These attributes helped Kareem, a senior majoring in civil and environmental engineering, and his team members rise to the top at this year’s Global Grand Challenges Summit Student Competition in London. The Global Grand Challenges Summit (GGCS) is hosted jointly by the UK, U.S., and Chinese academies of engineering and was held September 16-18 at the Southbank Center in London. The event invited the next generation of engineers to build creative collaborations and solve the 14 grand challenges for engineering outlined by the group. This year’s summit was centered around the theme “Engineering for an Unpredictable World” and asked attendees to think about goals like making solar energy economical, advancing personalized learning, engineering better medicines and providing access to clean water, among others. The first half of the week-long summit was devoted to the student team competition, with global engineering professionals joining the summit later. Melissa Bilec, PhD, deputy director at the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, has been working to develop a National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenge Scholar Program at the University of Pittsburgh; she nominated Kareem for the GGCS. “It was a pleasure to nominate Kareem for this opportunity, and I was thrilled when he was selected.  Kareem is an exceptional, creative, and generous student,” says Bilec. “When he returned, he told me that the experience was life-changing. To be a small part of his journey is truly fulfilling.” Mary Besterfield-Sacre, PhD, associate dean for Academic Affairs at the Swanson School, supported Kareem as well. “We are committed to ensuring not only exceptional student learning experiences but also advancing the school’s representation on a global stage,” she said. “And when an opportunity like GGCS presents itself and can benefit an outstanding student like Kareem, we will invest in that student’s success.” On day one, 50 teams of students who had just met were given just 24 hours to brainstorm an idea that would address one of the group’s grand challenges, develop a plan, and pitch it to (mock) investors in industry. Teams were each made up of two students from the UK, two from China and two from the U.S. Despite cultural differences and minor language barriers, Kareem’s team immediately discussed about the kinds of problems they wanted to focus on. They realized that despite coming to the competition with vastly different experiences, there were shared themes that resonated across the world. “If you’re sitting and brainstorming for hours and only think of one idea, you’ve spent too much time,” he said. “But if you run through 20 ideas, you might be able to connect themes and combine the best ones and get to something really great. That’s how we came to this idea about wastewater treatment.” Their idea focused on retrofitting wastewater treatment plants so that instead of growing bacteria they grow algae, which will trap carbon. That algae can then be repurposed as biofuel, fertilizer or a nutritional supplement. Kareem, whose other projects also focus on taking something wasteful and turning it into something valuable, recalled the times he’d heard of toxic algae blooms and the problems they cause. How could they use algae for good? After some speedy research, the team found an article showing it might be possible to use it in wastewater treatment. With that kernel of an idea, the newly christened “Algae Warriors” team was off and running. Out of 50 teams, Algae Warriors was one of 10 chosen to present in the finals. The project that went on to win first place proposed sending wasteful fast-fashion textiles to India to be made into low-cost pads that would allow young girls there to continue to go to school while menstruating. “I think our idea is a good one, but theirs allows girls to go to school,” he said. “If there’s a team to lose to, that’s the one.” Although they did not win, the Algae Warriors will continue their work on algae as a water treatment system from afar, with support from the National Academy of Engineering. Inspired by the innovative ideas he encountered in London, Kareem also hopes to start a Global Grand Challenges chapter at Pitt so that others can get inspired—and then get involved. “I saw a quote at the conference: ‘Act locally, think globally.’ We have a lot of environmental problems here in Pittsburgh like air pollution and sewer overflow,” he said. “Our problems aren’t isolated, though, and it’d be a good way for students to engage with them here and understand they’re problems everywhere.” The Algae Warriors’ project is only one of several of Kareem’s ventures aimed at solving similar problems in Pittsburgh. His company, Ecotone Renewables, was founded last year to help address food waste and wasteful food production at the same time. The company’s anaerobic digestion system, housed in a repurposed shipping container, can turn 2000 pounds of food waste into 200 gallons of liquid fertilizer and 1400 kilowatt hours of energy in the form of captured methane gas every month. Currently the startup is perfecting the fertilizer so that by the next growing season they can hit the ground running and provide fertilizing resources to those who need it. Over the summer, his research at Pitt with Sarah Haig, PhD focused on using microbial biodegraders of pollutants like bisphenol A (BPA) and nonylphenol in soil and watersheds. More recently, as part of his Engineering for Humanity certificate, he worked with Haig and Ian Nettleship, PhD, to study the effectiveness of low-cost ceramic filters at reducing the concentration of fecal indicator organisms. “Kareem’s passion for this work is bottomless and contagious,” says Haig. “He never stops thinking of new ways that engineering can improve people’s lives.” With so many balls in the air, Kareem has learned to be strategic with his time. “All my professors all tell me to focus on one thing, and I hear that, but I don’t mind juggling,” said Kareem, who is set to graduate in the spring. “I’m still really young, and I want to figure out what I’m really interested in.” Whatever it is he lands on, he is sure to jump in with both feet.
Maggie Pavlick
Oct
16
2019

Civil Engineering Professor Kent Harries Named ASCE Fellow

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (Oct. 16, 2019) — Kent Harries, PhD, FASCE, FACI, P.Eng., associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) this month. The Fellow status, FASCE, signifies members of the organization who have made celebrated contributions to the field and developed creative solutions that have enhanced lives. Fellows make up just three percent of ASCE’s members. The election recognizes Harries’ work on international standards-writing committees and on the use of nonconventional materials, like carbon and glass fiber-reinforced polymers, for structural repair, the structural application of full-culm bamboo, and his design-oriented teaching that teaches students to use both conventional and nonconventional materials. Harries' research interests also include the seismic design and retrofit of building structures, the design and behavior of high-rise structures, applications of full-scale structural testing and the history and philosophy of science and technology. He received his bachelor's, master's and PhD in civil engineering - structures from McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Harries currently serves as a vice-president of IIFC, Senior Editor of Journal of Construction and Building Materials, chair of ACI Committee 440F (Repair of Concrete with FRP) and on numerous other U.S. and international codes and standards development committees including ASCE FCAPS. Harries is presently leading the effort to revise ISO 22156 Bamboo Structural Design. A Fellow of both ACI and IIFC, Harries is a professional engineer in Ontario, Canada, and was Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Bath (UK) in 2018.
Maggie Pavlick
Oct
2
2019

Battling BPA with Biofilms

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (Oct. 2, 2019) — Chemicals found in many common plastic consumer items have the potential to contaminate drinking water. One in particular, bisphenol A (BPA), could contribute to fertility problems, male impotence, heart disease and other conditions.1 Biofilms, although a common tool used by engineers to combat contaminants in water, often need the support of other technology to remove chemicals like BPA. New research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has received $420,000 from the National Science Foundation to combine biofilms and electrodes to degrade BPA. The project, titled “Collaborative Research: Engineering Biofilm-Electrode for Organic Contaminant Degradation,” will be led by Pitt’s David Sanchez, PhD, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and assistant director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. Sanchez and his team will collaborate on the project with Seok Hoon Hong, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “Combining biofilms and electrochemistry can enhance our methods for removing contaminants from water,” explains Sanchez. “By finding the right combination of electrode morphology and microorganisms, we can ‘supercharge’ the ability of the microorganisms to degrade BPA.” BPA is commonly used in food packaging, such as plastic food and drink containers and as a lining in metal food cans to prevent corrosion. It has an estimated production of 5 million tons per year and is used in everyday items from receipt paper to dental sealants. Because of its prevalence, BPA frequently shows up in the human body: the EPA found detectable levels of BPA in 93 percent of the urine samples they tested in the U.S. Biofilms are collections of microorganisms growing on surfaces - in this case, an electrode. The primary goal of the research is to increase the amount of BPA they can degrade by creating a perfect match between organism and electrode.  Sanchez will be developing an electrode that gives the bacteria the ideal environment to thrive, while Hong will engineer and select the bacteria themselves. “I believe there’s a ‘Goldilocks’ condition, where the properties of the electrode are just right to select for these microorganisms, and my goal is to find it,” says Sanchez. “If we’re successful, this will be a more effective and sustainable way to target the removal of these types of contaminants from water.” The National Toxicology Program has expressed concern about the potential effects of BPA on human reproductive and development—another study showed that such exposure to BPA in zebrafish disrupted their bodies’ microbial communities, and similar disruption has also been observed in people with gastrointestinal diseases and autism spectrum disorder. “It is critical that we as a society prevent the impact chemical pollutants are having on our bodies and our planet,” says Sanchez. “We hope our research is a step toward developing effective technologies that reduce our exposure to BPA, among other contaminants.” The grant began on Sept. 1, 2019, and is expected to last through August 2022. ### 1Brazier, Yvette and Falck, Suzanne MD, FACP. Medical News Today, 25 May 2017.
Maggie Pavlick
Oct
1
2019

CEE Faculty Environmental and Water Resources

Civil & Environmental, Open Positions

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh invites applications for tenure-track faculty positions with an anticipated start date of September 1, 2020. These positions are part of a strategic expansion intended to support the research and teaching activities of the Sustainability and Environmental Engineering Group in two areas: Water Resources Engineering: Research areas of particular interest include: surface water and groundwater interactions, coastal flooding, multiphase flow in porous media and its interactions with river systems, computational fluid dynamics, mixing and dynamic behavior of fluids in natural and engineered systems, sediment transport, engineering fluid mechanics related to climate change, or similar areas. Environmental Engineering: Research areas of interest include: biological and chemical processes relevant to resource use and recovery from water or solid waste, and development of environmental engineering processes and technologies for adaptation to global environmental change. Environmental data analytics will be considered within the context of rigorous domain-specific research and applications in traditional and emerging environmental engineering areas. Candidates with outstanding analytical, computational, and/or experimental skills that complement the existing strengths within the department (http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/Departments/Civil-Environmental/) and across the University of Pittsburgh (https://www.pitt.edu/research) are encouraged to apply. Ability to collaborate with existing centers, such as the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/MCSI), the Center for Energy (http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/cfe), and the Impactful Resilient Infrastructure Science and Engineering (IRISE) Consortium (https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/irise/) is highly desirable. Minimum requirements to be considered for the positions are: 1) an earned doctorate in civil engineering or a closely related field; 2) a viable plan to develop and sustain a strong, externally funded research program within the applicant’s area of expertise; 3) strong indication to contribute to the teaching mission of the Department’s graduate and undergraduate programs; 4) evidence of good communication skills; 5) commitment to support service and diversity initiatives in the Department, Swanson School of Engineering and the University of Pittsburgh. Preference will be given to appointees at the Assistant Professor level, but applicants with outstanding credentials may be considered at other levels. Interested applicants should submit: (1) cover letter, (2) CV, (3) teaching statement, (4) research interests and future plans, (5) statement of diversity and inclusion, (6) copies of three representative publications, and (7) the names and contact information for at least three references. Applicants should submit their applications through Interfolio at the following link: http://apply.interfolio.com/69279. Candidates should prominently note in their cover letter if they are applying for the Environmental Engineering or Water Resources position. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until positions are filled. For full consideration candidates are strongly encouraged to apply before December 1, 2019. We actively encourage candidates from underrepresented US minority groups and women to apply for this position.  The University of Pittsburgh is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and values equality of opportunity, human dignity and diversity. EEO/AA/M/F/Vets/Disabled. Outstanding candidates will have the opportunity to join our vibrant and growing department of 22 full-time faculty members, 300 undergraduate and 130 graduate students (50 of whom are PhD students). University of Pittsburgh faculty receive a comprehensive package of benefits, including medical, dental, vision, and life insurance; retirement savings/pension plans; and tuition scholarships for dependents. Details are available at: http://www.hr.pitt.edu/benefits.

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