Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Join With Us In Celebrating Our Fall 2020 Graduating Class! 


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. 

Feb
26
2021

Pitt IRISE Consortium Welcomes CAWP as Newest Member

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 26, 2021) — The University of Pittsburgh is proud to announce that the Constructors Association of Western PA (CAWP) is the sixth and newest member to join the Impactful Resilient Infrastructure Science and Engineering (IRISE) Consortium. IRISE is a research consortium that is housed in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering. Its focus is on finding solutions for more durable, longer lasting transportation infrastructure that will avoid the high cost and disruption caused by highway rehabilitation. The IRISE collaboration focuses on developing innovative, implementable solutions that meet the needs of its members. CAWP will join other regional public and private partners who represent both the public agencies that own and operate the infrastructure and the private firms that design and build it, including Allegheny County Department of Public Works, PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Golden Triangle Construction, and Michael Baker International. For over 85 years, the members of CAWP have worked together as an industry to tackle the important issues facing the heavy, highway and utility construction industry in Western Pennsylvania. “CAWP is pleased to be able to bring the perspective of the construction industry to the IRISE consortium,” said CAWP Executive Director Richard J. Barcaskey. “As a collaborative organization ourselves, we understand the benefits and power of working together to develop innovative solutions to critical problems.” Julie Vandenbossche, Ph.D., P.E., the Director of IRISE said, “We welcome CAWP as our newest member and are excited about expanding our ability to reach out to the actual builders to better ensure the tools and technology we develop can be applied in practice and produce increased construction efficiency and worker safety.”
Maggie Pavlick
Feb
18
2021

Building on a Fruitful Engagement

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 18, 2021) — In the middle of concrete streets and brick buildings in the neighborhood of Homewood, a greenhouse teems with activity. The Oasis Farm and Fishery produces fresh, local produce for residents and businesses in this community, which is considered a food desert — an area with limited access to fresh, affordable, good-quality foods like fruits and vegetables. Food deserts are a growing problem not only in Pittsburgh but throughout the U.S. In 2015, Pitt Hydroponics, a University of Pittsburgh student organization, partnered with the Oasis Project, an initiative of the Bible Center Church in Homewood, to produce locally grown, fresh produce for the community and provide instruction in urban farming. The urban micro-farm has produced food for Homewood neighbors as well as the Pitt Pantry. Now, the partnership finds itself at a critical moment of expansion. A new Year of Engagement Grant from the University of Pittsburgh will enable the Pitt Hydroponics Club and the Oasis Project to build its new greenhouse, complete with a microclimate that can produce food year-round, even through the cold months of the Pittsburgh winter. "The importance of this partnership is that the ideas and projects are co-created. It is another exciting step, on a long journey,” said Pitt Hydroponics advisor David Sanchez, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and assistant director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt. “And if we do it right, we will meet real needs in Homewood, inspire transformational solutions for Pittsburgh and beyond, and meet our educational mission for our students." The Magic of Hydroponics Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil; the roots instead hang in nutrient-dense water. The method enables plants to grow more quickly with less water, producing a better yield without the need for pesticide or fertilizer. With hydroponics, many plants can be grown in a small amount of space, making it well-suited for sustainable urban farming. The partnership between Pitt Hydroponics and the Oasis Project has already yielded positive results. The site currently consists of a direct current (DC) powered greenhouse that stores 1,750 gallons of reclaimed rainwater and has both aquaponic and hydroponic food production systems. The farm grows a variety of vegetables and fruits, from hearty greens and lettuce to tomatillos and hot peppers. Last year, it produced more than 500 pounds of food, much of which was used by the Everyday Cafe, a branch of the Bible Center Church. “Pitt Hydroponics is able to take requests directly from the cafe as to what they would like us to grow for their menu,” said Pitt Hydroponics President William Sauerland, a junior studying computer science. “Having the club’s work go right back into the community is an advantage of working in and with the Homewood community.” Though Pitt Hydroponics has strong ties to the Swanson School of Engineering, it is made up of students from across the University who meet regularly to brainstorm, design, build and test hydroponic growing systems. The group created the plan and received funding for the greenhouse. They also designed and built a microclimate in the building’s garage so that both the greenhouse and the garage are usable in the winter to grow crops. “Since beginning this collaboration, we have been able to accomplish a great deal in a very short time,” said Jerry Potts (BSME ’20), the former vice president of Pitt Hydroponics. “I am really proud of what we have done in so little time and I am really excited to see how the groups continue to expand, especially when there isn’t a pandemic getting in the way.” In addition to creating a warm microclimate that will lengthen the growing season, the new space will allow the partners to design and test innovative new systems. Once the new greenhouse is built, it will house Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) hydronic systems, with the capacity to grow around 400 plants. Cultivating Green Education The Oasis Farm and Fishery offers hands-on educational programming for Homewood residents and others about urban farming, the parts of the plant, the role of nutrients in the soil, and the plethora of beneficial bugs that help out around the farm. By partnering with the University of Pittsburgh, Oasis Farm and Fishery is “working to leverage our combined energy and expertise to help make Homewood a destination for Green workforce training and education, as well as a source for quality, locally grown produce,” said Tacumba Turner, farm manager for the Oasis Project. “Our farm is a space where undergraduate students can get exposure to real world application of the concepts and theories they learn about, and it enables them to to put those ideas and insights into use in ways that are meaningful and relevant to the community of Homewood.” The new greenhouse, funded by the $2,246 Year of Engagement Grant, will also enable more hands-on demonstrations for students who come to the farm to learn about hydroponics. “The best part of working with the community in Homewood is being able to have direct contact with the people we are helping. Pitt Hydroponics spends a lot of its efforts on community engagement at elementary schools in Homewood,” said Sauerland. “We do after-school programs teaching kids the basics of hydroponics and sustainable growing methods. It is fun to work with the elementary school kids and rewarding to be able to share what we learn as a club with them.” The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for the students to engage with the community, but the construction of the greenhouse—and all the work that follows—provides a safe and productive way to engage with and learn from the community of Homewood. The outdoor, socially distanced work will allow interaction and learning to continue, even as the pandemic stretches on. “The Oasis Project serves the people of Homewood in many ways, and the partnership with Pitt has brought resources, innovative thinking and best practice from research to our work,” said Cynthia Wallace, Executive Director of the Oasis Project and Executive Pastor at the Bible Center Church. “It also means that the Pitt students are not learning in isolation but understand that as knowledge grows, so does responsibility. The role of education is not just for the individual but is for the collective.”
Maggie Pavlick
Feb
3
2021

The Business of Bees

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 3, 2021) — The economic value of insect pollinators was $34 billion in the U.S. in 2012, much higher than previously thought, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University. The team also found that areas that are economically most reliant on insect pollinators are the same areas where pollinator habitat and forage quality are poor. “Pollinators like bees play an extremely important role in agriculture,” explained senior author Vikas Khanna, Wellington C. Carl Faculty Fellow and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “The insects that pollinate farmers’ crops underpin our ecosystem biodiversity and function, human nutrition, and even economic welfare.” But some of those busy little bees are headed for crisis—one-third of managed honey bee colonies die each winter in the U.S., and populations of many wild pollinator species are showing declines as well. Using publicly available price and production data and existing pollination field studies, the team determined economic dependence of U.S. crops on insect pollination services at the county level, as well as areas where the habitat for wild pollinators has been reduced. One key finding is that the economic value that is dependent on insect pollination totaled $34 billion in 2012, much higher than previously thought. The team looked at 2012 because it was the most recent year for which data were available. “The value of insects as part of our economy is apparent when you look at the well-established connection between farming and beekeeping. Farmers sometimes will buy or rent bee colonies to help pollinate their crops when there aren’t enough wild bees in the area,” said Khanna. “We’ve found that some of the areas that are economically most reliant on insect pollinators are the same areas where pollinator habitat and forage quality are poor.” The researchers found that 20 percent of U.S. counties produce 80 percent of total economic value that can be attributed to wild and managed pollinators. Their findings will inform conservation efforts and ensure sustainable production of key crops. They also identified the key areas that produce economically and nutritionally valuable crops and are highly dependent on pollinators—areas that are at risk if wild pollinator populations continue to decline. By overlaying maps of predicted wild bee abundance, the researchers could identify areas where there was high economic dependence on pollinators but low predicted abundance of pollinators. The research suggests a need for farmers to mitigate the shrinking bee populations by providing a more suitable habitat for the insects to thrive. “Our study showcases the increasing importance of pollinators to supporting U.S. agricultural systems, particularly for the foods that are vital for healthy diets, like fruits, vegetables and nuts,” says Christina Grozinger, Publius Vergilius Maro Professor of Entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State. “This detailed map of pollination needs and pollinator deficits helps identify regions where resources could be provided to improve pollinator habitat, as well as other regions where local land use practices are supporting both agriculture and healthy pollinator populations. Those places could serve as models for sustainable agriculture and pollinator conservation practices.” The paper, “Economic Dependence and Vulnerability of United States Agricultural Sector on Insect-Mediated Pollination Service,” (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c04786) was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Other authors on the paper include Alex Jordan, graduate student at Pitt, and Harland Patch, assistant research professor at Penn State. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Maggie Pavlick
Feb
2
2021

Mapping PFAS Contamination in Packaged Foods

Civil & Environmental

When grabbing a sweet, sticky bun from the grocery store for breakfast, one might rejoice in the fact that it cleanly slides out of the wrapper and onto a plate. While consumers may not think twice about why it is not sticking, researchers are trying to shed light on how this convenient packaging could potentially expose humans to toxic chemicals called PFAS. Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of man-made chemicals lauded for their nonstick and oil-repellent characteristics. While useful in the food industry, there is evidence that exposure to these persistent chemicals may lead to adverse outcomes in human health. Supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the University of Pittsburgh’s Carla Ng will lead a project that aims to be the first systematic study of the kinds and amount of PFAS that are present in imported and domestic food packaging. She and her collaborators from Indiana University and the USDA – Agricultural Research Service (ARS) will create a database that they hope will help guide better policy around the use of PFAS in the food industry. “Humans are exposed to PFAS in a variety of ways, but depending on where you live, food is likely your major source,” said Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “There are many different types of PFAS, and we don’t have enough information on where they are used, in what quantities, and whether they’re toxic, so we will use this award to study those details.” According to the FDA, there are nearly 5,000 different types of PFAS. To add to the complexity of this issue, other countries have adopted different approaches to regulating PFAS and its many varieties. For example, PFOA and PFOS have been phased out in the United States, but they are still widely produced in China. While they do not send these specific chemicals to the U.S., there may be residual chemicals that are transferred during production. “Because of these uncertainties, we want to understand how all the different origins of packaging will impact which PFAS actually wind up in the consumer product,” said Ng. The research team will inspect national supermarket chains and local international food stores to get an idea of the type and geographic origin of food packaging. They will then collect a representative sample of products and analyze the packaging for the presence of PFAS. “We will use extraction and migration assays to evaluate the packaging,” explained Ng. “Extraction would represent an extreme case where we use harsh chemicals to gather a sample. Alternatively, the migration assays use simulants which represent different types of food – such as fatty, acidic, or salty. It will show, under normal conditions, how much PFAS transferred from packaging to food.” ARS researcher Yelena Sapozhnikova will contribute to this work by identifying PFAS chemicals migrating from food packaging materials with non-targeted, high-resolution mass spectrometry. Sapozhnikova's interest in this research is a direct result from her previous work on identification of chemicals from food contact materials. Once the PFAS structures are identified, they will go to Amina Salamova, associate scientist at IU’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, whose team will quantify how much of each structure is in the sample. “We’re excited to conduct research that has such big implications for consumer safety,” Salamova said. “This research will help us understand a lot more about a group of chemicals that are widely used but not well understood.” From there, the analyzed extracts and simulants will go to Pitt to be tested for toxicity. Ng’s lab specializes in molecular modeling that can initially screen the samples before evaluating them in zebrafish for further validation. The results of the project will reveal whether the chemicals present in the packaging are toxic and if the concentration is high enough to contaminate your food. The researchers hope that this work will inform regulators, provide a risk assessment tool, and potentially reveal hot spots for PFAS exposure in our food system. # # #

Jan
27
2021

Ph.D. position: data science and modeling in water

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental, Open Positions

We have a fully funded PhD opportunity in the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA USA.  Please see the attachment for details of the project. We look forward to receiving strong applications from qualified applicants.

xuliang@pitt.edu

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