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



Jul
10
2018

Fishy Chemicals in Farmed Salmon

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (July 10, 2018) … Persistent organic pollutants—or POPs—skulk around the environment threatening human health through direct contact, inhalation, and most commonly, eating contaminated food. As people are becoming more aware of their food’s origin, new research at the University of Pittsburgh suggests it might be just as important to pay attention to the origin of your food’s food.The American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology featured research by Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, on the cover of its June 19 issue. Dr. Ng tracked the presence of a class of synthetic flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which were once a popular additive to increase fire resistance in consumer products such as electronics, textiles, and plastics (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b00146).“The United States and much of Europe banned several PBDEs in 2004 because of environmental and public health concerns,” says Dr. Ng. “PBDEs can act as endocrine disruptors and cause developmental effects. Children are particularly vulnerable.”The Stockholm Convention, an international environmental treaty established to identify and eliminate organic pollutants, listed PBDEs as persistent organic pollutants in 2009. Despite restrictions on their use, PBDEs continue to be released into the environment because of their long lifetime and abundance in consumer goods. They are particularly dense in areas such as China, Thailand, and Vietnam that process a lot of electronic waste and do not regulate much of their recycling.“The international food trade system is becoming increasingly global in nature and this applies to animal feed as well. Fish farming operations may import their feed or feed ingredients from a number of countries, including those without advanced food safety regulations,” explains Dr. Ng.Most models to predict human exposure to pollutants typically focus on people in relation to their local environment. Dr. Ng’s model compared a variety of factors to find the best predictor of PBDEs in farmed salmon, including pollutants inhaled through gills, how the fish metabolized and eliminated pollutants, and of course, the concentration of pollutants in the feed.She says, “We found that feed is relatively less important in areas that already have high concentrations of pollutants in the environment. However, in otherwise clean and well-regulated environments, contaminated feed can be thousands of times more significant than the location of the farm for determining the PBDE content of salmon fillets.”Dr. Ng says the model could be modified and applied to other fish with high global trading volumes such as tilapia or red snapper. It could also be used to predict pollutant content in livestock or feeds produced in contamination “hot spots.”“Hot spots are places identified as having high levels of pollutants,” says Dr. Ng. “As these chemicals circulate through the environment, much ends up in the ocean. It’s extremely important to pay attention to the sourcing of ocean commodities and areas where pollutant concentrations are particularly high.”Dr. Ng’s model also helps inform contamination control strategies such as substituting fish oils for plant-based materials or taking measures to decontaminate fish oil before human consumption. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jul
2
2018

Discovering “Virtual” Resources in the National Food System

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (July 2, 2018) … Does producing one ton of rice consume more water in Arkansas or California? Is it more sustainable for Texas to import oranges from Florida or grow its own? Will switching to water efficient irrigation pumps reduce both water and energy footprint of food production? To better integrate sustainability across multiple production systems, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded two professors from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering a $305,764 grant for their research into the interconnectivity of U.S. food, energy, and water resources. The research will focus on modeling the complex network of resources in the United States and strategies for optimizing sustainability in resource production and consumption with a focus on food, energy, and water systems.“People tend to see food, energy, and water as individual diodes on a larger network, when they are more like a mesh of connections. This research is asking how you can model the nexus of these complex systems,” says Vikas Khanna, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt and principal investigator of the study.The study titled "Modeling and Optimization of Sustainable and ResilienT FEW (MOST FEW) Networks" will use publicly available data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Department of Agriculture, and related organizations to examine the environmental sustainability of U.S. national food system with an emphasis on interstate trade. The researchers in particular will focus on identifying networks of “virtual resources.”“Virtual resources are those consumed in a process but not intended to be directly used in the exchange itself,” Dr. Khanna explains. “For example, a large amount of water is consumed across the entire supply chain of corn. A singular focus on optimizing corn production could come at the expense of high water consumption or increased fertilizer use, or result in some other negative consequence if relationships within the system aren’t better understood.”Joining Dr. Khanna on the study as co-principal investigator is Oleg Prokopyev, professor of industrial engineering. Dr. Prokopyev specializes in Operations Research and develops tools and algorithms for describing complex, mathematical relationships in networks. Their collaboration began after Dr. Khanna used similar techniques and principles to model the London public transit system. Dr. Prokopyev recognized their common research interests, and the two decided to collaborate on the current project.Dr. Prokopyev says, “When looking at multiple objectives, most often efficiency with one thing will come at the expense of another. These are problems that don’t really have easy solutions, but there are mathematical ways to describe the processes and help people visualize how their decisions impact the network.”During the grant period, the researchers hope to identify “hot spots” for improvement opportunities and provide a range of solutions that minimize environmental impact and maximize the efficiency of resource production and consumption.“When your focus is sustainability, you always have a research application in mind,” says Dr. Khanna. “We face real life problems every day that require tradeoffs like quality for price or personal preference for availability. In the same way consumers can make better decision by being more informed, modeling the food, energy, and water networks will help to inform better decision making about our national resource policies by government, industry, utilities, and more.” ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
May
17
2018

Drivers, You're Not Alone. Pittsburgh Really Does Have Frustrating And Short On-Ramps

Civil & Environmental

Driving in Pittsburgh is confusing. The streets aren’t on a grid system and going over the wrong bridge could result in a long, unwelcomed detour. Learning to maneuver the city’s streets is frustrating, but listener Ron Dylewski found that merging onto the region’s highways to be particularly challenging. “Why are there so many on-ramps in the Pittsburgh area that are so dangerous and so short?” Dylewski asked. In the infrastructure's defense, most of Pittsburgh’s highways were built in the mid-20th Century, they weren’t really made to be highways like in other parts of the country. University of Pittsburgh Civil Engineering Professor Mark Magalotti said most of the region’s parkways were built in the 1950s and '60s, early in the era of interstate highways. Your browser does not support the audio element. Read and listen to the full story at WESA 90.5/NPR.
Katie Blackley, 90.5 WESA
May
16
2018

Concerns about Pittsburgh infrastructure loom ahead of Amazon bid

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh's government has been pushing to bring Amazon's HQ2 to the city, which comes with the promise of 50,000 new jobs. But along with the potential for a big boom is concern about how Pittsburgh's infrastructure would handle the influx of people and business. Watch Aaron Martin's complete report in the video below.
Aaron Martin, WPXI
May
15
2018

Gateway Engineers along with past President establish funds to help women engineering students at Pitt

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (May 15, 2018) … Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a greater need for engineers over the next ten years, data show that women who earn an engineering degree are less likely to work in the engineering profession.1 At the same time, the percentage of women with engineering degrees has remained flat for more than a decade.2 However, a recent gift to the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering from one of Pittsburgh’s most successful woman engineers hopes to attract more women to the profession and help to build the professional networks needed to continue in the profession. Ruthann L. Omer, P.E. earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Pitt in 1983, and was the first female municipal engineering in Allegheny County and recently retired as President of Gateway Engineers. She and Gateway Engineers established two funds at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering to help the next generation of engineers succeed at the University and beyond. While the Omer Family Scholarship Fund will support undergraduate tuition and other educational expenses and to support furthering the diversity of the undergraduate student body in the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The Omer Family Engineering Legacy Fund established by Gateway Engineers will enhance student success by supporting the School’s award-winning chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  Gateway Engineers’ CEO, Jason Jesso, applauds the mission of SWE. “SWE offers engineering students with opportunities to network, obtain leadership training, earn scholarships and advance their careers,” Mr. Jesso said. “We’re incredibly thankful for Gateway Engineers and Ruthann’s commitment to engineering education and student success,” noted Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “They are well respected by their engineering peers in the region and are an example of the success our women engineering students can achieve in the profession.” The Omer Family Engineering Legacy Fund will enable Pitt SWE members to attend the national conference, beginning with WE18 in Minneapolis, October 18-20, 2018. ### For more information about how to give to these funds or other programs, visit the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs. About Gateway EngineersGateway is a full-service civil engineering and consulting firm with multiple offices that can design and manage a project from concept to completion. For more than 60 years, the company has been at the forefront of innovation in the engineering industry. Today, the company effectively and efficiently manages literally thousands of projects a year for a diverse group of clients throughout the country. Headquartered in Pittsburgh with offices in Butler, Pa. and Cecil Township, Pa., Gateway employs more than 160 and is consistently ranked as one of the top 500 firms in the U.S. by Engineering News-Record.1 Corbett, C., & Hill, C. (2015). "Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing." Washington, DC: American Association of University Women.2 Yoder, B. L. (2017). Engineering by the Numbers. American Society for Engineering Education.

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