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



Apr
12
2019

Swanson School Professor Leanne Gilbertson receives ASEE Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 12, 2019) … Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, was selected to receive the Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Women in Engineering Division (WIED). The award recognizes her contributions to engineering education and will provide travel to the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida, June 15-19. The Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant honors and supports women who at the beginning of their academic career have the potential to contribute to the engineering education community and support the mission of WIED. In 2019 a total of four awards were presented to female faculty and students who have a demonstrated commitment to innovation in teaching and/or potential for substantial contributions to the field. Gilbertson earned her PhD in environmental engineering from Yale University in 2014 with support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and an Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship. 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 received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hamilton College in 2007 and was a secondary school teacher for several years before going to graduate school. Gilbertson’s research group aims to inform sustainable design of existing and novel materials to avoid potential unintended environmental and human health consequences while maintaining functional performance goals. Her research includes both experimental and life cycle modeling thrusts. “Leanne is an advocate for STEM education and is dedicated to making science and engineering fun, challenging, and accessible to students of all ages,” said Radisav Vidic, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering. “Through her research, coursework, and mentorship, she has been a major asset to our department and the Swanson School. She is most deserving of this award!” ### Background of Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant Dr. Mara H. Wasburn (February 22, 1941 –  March 27, 2011) was a professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership/Supervision at Purdue University; her work on mentoring is recognized worldwide. Her mentoring model, Strategic Collaboration, was copyrighted and has been applied to both business and academic environments internationally. Dr. Wasburn was very active in ASEE, particularly in WIED. Through this grant, we honor Dr. Wasburn's commitment to mentoring and the academic advancement of women in engineering/technology. The applicants and awardees represent an embodiment of Dr. Wasburn’s legacy.

Apr
11
2019

Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Presents Ruthann Omer with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) ... This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. This year’s recipient for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is Ruthann Omer, P.E., BSCE ‘83, President and CEO of Omer Advisors. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin II, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “For more than 150 years, civil engineering alumni from Pitt have made outstanding contributions to society and human life, and Ruthann is no exception,” said Dean Martin. “We would like to recognize her for her impact on the field of civil engineering in the region, as well as her philanthropic support of the next generation of women engineers.” About Ruthann L. Omer Ms. Ruthann Omer was the President of The Gateway Engineers, for 25 years where she helped create and implement successful business strategies. The company has over 150 employees and three offices in the region. Ms. Omer spent over three decades serving on the Board of Directors while also managing a wide range of civil engineering projects for seven municipalities in Southwestern PA. She has broken barriers in the engineering business as the first female municipal engineer in Allegheny County. As a female executive in a historically male-lead industry, Ms. Omer implemented creative strategies that allowed a boutique local engineering firm to grow into a full service engineering company that ranked consistently among the ENR’s top 500 A/E firms. Ms. Omer was the youngest graduate of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce Leadership Pittsburgh Program Year VIII. After taking her EIT in college, she went on to obtain her Professional Engineers license from Pennsylvania. She has received numerous accolades for her achievements including the “Pennsylvania State Engineer of the Year” and the “Pittsburgh Business Times Woman of Influence Award,” and is touted as an expert in local government relations and infrastructure systems regional planning and implementation. After 40 years with Gateway Engineers, Ms. Omer retired and started another consulting firm, Omer Advisors, Inc., where she continues to work in the government relations field. ###

Apr
5
2019

Pitt Faculty Awarded $175,000 NSF RAPID Grant to Study Effects of PWSA’s Anti-Corrosion Measures

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 5, 2019) — Two professors at the University of Pittsburgh received an NSF Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant for $175,000 to study the environmental effects of new anti-corrosion treatments currently being used on Pittsburgh’s lead pipes. Like many cities across the country, Pittsburgh’s water system still uses some lead pipes, and over time, those can corrode, leaching lead into the drinking water system. To combat this, the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) is introducing orthophosphate into Pittsburgh’s water system, which will coat the insides of the lead pipes and help prevent the harmful corrosion. PWSA produces approximately 70 million gallons of treated drinking water per day, which meets all EPA Safe Drinking Water Act standards. Orthophosphate is a food-grade additive that has been shown to be more effective than the soda ash and lime previously used for PWSA’s corrosion control. Sarah Haig, PhD, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering with a secondary appointment in Environmental and Occupational Health at the Graduate School of Public Health, and Emily Elliott, PhD, associate professor of Geology and Environmental Science in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and Director of the Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory, will evaluate water samples provided by the PWSA. They will assess and monitor changes in the microbial ecology, water chemistry and nutrient availability in the water collected from pipes and urban streams connected to the system. The grant was awarded April 1, 2019, and the project is expected to last about one year. Orthophosphate has been approved by the EPA and used in drinking water systems across the world, but there is a need to study phosphate levels in the environment. “Pittsburgh’s drinking water pipe system loses more than 25 million gallons per day due to leaks and other water discharges, so it’s important to understand what happens if orthophosphate enters the groundwater and surface water” says Dr. Haig. “This grant will allow us to set a baseline and evaluate any changes that the added orthophosphate causes to streams connected to the system.” “NSF RAPID grants help researchers respond when data needs to be collected urgently to address an important scientific issue” said Matt Kane, a program director at the National Science Foundation, which funded this research.  “Dr. Haig and her team need to respond immediately to be able to understand the impact of the orthophosphate additions on Pittsburgh’s aquatic ecosystems.” Though PWSA’s larger goal of replacing all of the lead pipes is already underway, it will take years to complete. In the meantime, the addition of orthophosphate is expected to reduce lead levels in drinking water across the system. PWSA began feeding orthophosphate to the drinking water on April 2nd. “This project will help answer fundamental ecological questions about how leaking infrastructure can impact nutrient cycling and aquatic ecosystems in urban streams,” says Dr. Haig. “Not only will this project reveal the treatment’s immediate effects on Pittsburgh’s ecosystems, but it will also provide insights that will benefit other cities implementing this treatment.”
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
4
2019

Let's Clear the Air

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 4, 2019) — For the past 40 years, research has proven that people of color, low-income communities and ethnic minorities suffer the effects of environmental contamination more than other communities. The Flint, Mich., water crisis and the Dakota Pipeline protests serve as national examples of environmental injustices, but similar issues affect communities across the country. New research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, in partnership with the Kingsley Association and funded by the Heinz Endowments examined the impact that bottom-up, community-level initiatives have in addressing environmental justice issues. They found that the best way to address a community’s environmental injustices is to meet them where they are, integrating into the community and building trust over a long-term partnership. Pittsburgh has long struggled with air quality since its early industrial days, and the effects of environmental pollution on health are well-known. Residents in the Greater Pittsburgh region are at twice the cancer risk of surrounding counties, and disadvantaged communities see the worst of it. The East End of Pittsburgh is among the city’s most underserved boroughs, struggling with crumbling infrastructure, community disinvestment, and high traffic density. These factors all contribute to the poor air quality affecting citizens’ health and wellness, which is what their program, the Environmental Justice Community Action Matrix (EJCAM), is designed to address. “When your house is in need of repairs, it can’t effectively keep the outdoor air out. Since Americans spend nearly 90 percent of their time indoors, the concentration of pollution inside the house could be a significant contributor to poor health,” says Melissa Bilec, PhD, the Roberta A. Luxbacher Faculty Fellow and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “I visited one community member’s home and noticed that she was using an oxygen tank, and it struck me just how much these environmental issues are impacting people’s health inside their own homes.” Dr. Bilec and her team, with PhD student, Harold Rickenbacker as a lead, have partnered with the Kingsley Association, a community organization in Larimer, since 2007 on environmental justice initiatives. EJCAM, their most recent collaboration, went through four stages, using the Theory of Change paradigm: outreach, involvement, participatory research and consultation. It culminated in in-house air quality testing that Dr. Bilec says wouldn’t have been possible without the trust that their partnership built, especially Harold’s commitment and time spent in working with the community. EJCAM created Community Action Teams (CATs), which trained community members to become leaders who would train others and advocate for environmental issues; the Urban Transition Cities Movement (UTCM) brought together unlikely stakeholders community members, non-profit leaders, small businesses, universities, governmental agencies, youth and public officials. Because of these initiatives, community members have become more involved and aware of environmental issues, knowledgeable about green materials, infrastructure and land use practices. They’re active in the management of forthcoming landscape features in housing developments and pollution control schemes. The most important thing Dr. Bilec learned through this process was that in order to be effective, the first step must be building trust. And the way to build trust is to be visible in the community over time. Harold Rickenbacker, a PhD candidate working with Dr. Bilec on the initiative and lead author of the paper, dedicated himself to integrating with the community to truly understand its needs and the best way to fill them. He attended community meetings, church gatherings and other events. A mobile air quality monitoring bicycle campaign took researchers and community members to the streets, riding bikes mounted with air particulate counters that give a real-time map of air quality in the area. More than that, it gave the researchers a way to be visible and connect with the community, who would often stop them to ask what they were doing. “We found the most important thing we could do was to be present, to listen to the citizens and figure out how our research can help them,” says Mr. Rickenbacker. “Community-based initiatives are effective, but they have to be a sustained partnership, not a one-off event.” The team is currently performing indoor air quality assessments with the community members, counseling them on measures they can take to improve it and the supplies they’ll need to do so. They hope that their program model will be replicable in other communities in the Pittsburgh area and beyond. The project recently won the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Award, and Mr. Rickenbacker won the Carnegie Science Award in the College/University Student category this year for his work on EJCAM. The paper, “Creating Environmental Consciousness in Underserved Communities: Implementation and Outcomes of Community-Based Environmental Justice and Air Pollution Research,” was published in Sustainable Cities and Society (DOI10.1016/j.scs.2019.101473) and was coauthored by Dr. Bilec and Fred Brown of the Forbes Fund.
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
1
2019

Swanson Faculty Honored in First Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Awards

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (March 29, 2019)—The inaugural Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Award honored several faculty members and students from the Swanson School of Engineering Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, in recognition of their community-impacting research and initiatives. The highly competitive award recognizes partnerships that are exemplars of community engagement at Pitt. Up to five partnerships are chosen each year to receive the award and a $2,000 grant to support their work. Melissa Bilec, Roberta A. Luxbacher Faculty Fellow and associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Harold Rickenbacker, a PhD candidate in Civil Engineering, are receiving the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Award for their partnership with the East End’s Kingsley Association on community-based environmental justice and air pollution initiatives. Dr. Bilec and Mr. Rickenbacker’s current initiative in the East End of Pittsburgh, the Environmental Justice Community Alert Matrix (EJCAM), has provided trainings for over 200 residents on the importance of environmental sustainability and the training to do so over the past five years. The team worked with the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation’s co-director of administration and external relations, Gena Kovalcik, to form the partnership with the Kingsley Association. Residents of Larimer learned the technical knowledge to identify environmental concerns within their homes while learning the importance of sustainability in water use, energy consumption and air pollution. “Working with the Kingsley Association allowed the University to impact the greater Pittsburgh community while responding directly to a community’s definition of their needs,” says Dr. Bilec. “As a result of the EJCAM, community members are knowledgeable about green materials, infrastructure and land use practices, and they are more active in the management of forthcoming landscape features in housing developments and pollution control schemes.” An article detailing the outcomes of this program was recently published in the journal Sustainable Cities and Society. Mr. Rickenbacker also won the Carnegie Science Award in the College/University Student category this year for his work on EJCAM. “When addressing environmental justice issues, long-term, community-based initiatives like this one are important and effective,” says Mr. Rickenbacker. “In order to build partnerships with the community, you have to make sure they have a vested interest in your shared success. And to do that, you have to build lasting partnerships, not hold singular community events. With this award, we can continue to build our relationship with the Kingsley Association and replicate this model in neighboring communities impacted by environmental justice issues.” Dr. David Sanchez, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, along with the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and research students from the Sustainable Design Labs, were selected as an honorable mention this year for the Sustainability and STEM initiative. Sustainability and STEM is a long-term engineering educational outreach program with a focus on sustainability that brings a team of high-energy Pitt students to Manchester Academic Charter School to engage the students there in STEM modules focused on sustainability. The students instruct progressively challenging “stacked” modules to six classes of sixth- to eighth-grade science students annually, allowing Dr. Sanchez and his team to engage with the same middle-school students every year as they advance in their education. Previous Sustainability in STEM modules have included: Future Cities Design; DIY Solar Houses, Cars, Water Filters and Wind Turbines; Understanding Renewable Energy; and Life-Cycle Assessment/Reducing Solid Waste. “Our goal is to share high-quality STEM modules that teach, engage and inspire the next generation of young scientists,” says Dr. Sanchez. “But it is also to leverage the resources available in the Swanson School of Engineering Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation to make a positive difference in our community.” The winners and honorable mentions will be listed as exemplar partnerships in the University’s application for the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement. The awards were presented at the University’s Community-Engaged Scholarship Forum on Friday, March 29.

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