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



Jun
14
2019

CEE Undergrad Kaitie DeOre receives ASCE recognition for her leadership and volunteer service

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 14, 2019) … Kaitie DeOre, a senior civil engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has been selected to receive the 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Region 2 Outstanding Student Award in recognition of her contributions to Pitt’s ASCE Student Chapter, the community, and the engineering profession. DeOre serves as president of Pitt’s student chapter, an award-winning section that currently has over 180 student members. Prior to her current appointment, she held the role of service/outreach chair where she established a strong volunteer base with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and other organizations. In 2019 DeOre planned Pitt ASCE’s first annual Civil Engineering Day, an event that targeted high school students interested in civil engineering and facilitated hands-on activities, lab tours, professional demonstrations, and faculty panels. “I knew that I wanted to be an engineer at a young age after attending engineering programs at Penn State Fayette, and I always wonder where I would be today if I hadn’t gotten involved in these programs prior to college,” DeOre said. “Most current civil engineering students would agree that when they entered the Swanson School, they had no idea that they would become civil engineers, much less understood what one did. When the Pittsburgh Section approached me about sponsoring an outreach event in the fall, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try to ‘bridge’ the education gap with high school students.” DeOre also contacted Keith Smith, a teacher at Connellsville Area High School, to establish a mentorship program that worked toward helping students transition to college and understand the everyday life of an engineering student. “When I started college, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, especially coming from a rural area where there weren’t always a lot of resources available,” DeOre explained. “When I contacted Mr. Smith about meeting his students and becoming a resource for them, both Mr. Smith and the students were ecstatic. “I have become passionate about providing opportunities to high school students that I wish I would’ve had when I was in their shoes,” she continued. “I really hope that we can build upon this program and involve more schools in the near future.” In addition to her work with local high schools, DeOre has organized fundraising and volunteer events around the community. She led a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, created “puppy rugs” for a local animal shelter, and volunteered time at the Millvale Community Library and Oakland’s Family House. She also helped her peers at Point Park University (PPU) establish an ASCE chapter of their own. “We assisted in creating their constitution and helping them understand what needed to be done to get their chapter up and running,” DeOre said. “We invited them to all of our ASCE events during the spring semester, including a joint Pitt-Carnegie Mellon University-PPU technical speaking event that I organized where ASCE Pittsburgh Section Governor Pat Sullivan was invited to speak.” In 2018 DeOre’s passion for volunteer work took her out of the United States and to Central America where she visited the Embera Tribe in Panama with Daniel Budny, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt. During this service-learning project, she and a group of volunteers installed a water filtration system, solar panels, a concrete footbridge, and steps to their water tanks. They also reconfigured a refrigeration circuit that was installed on a previous trip. “Traveling to Panama with Dr. Budny was an experience of a lifetime. I will never forget when we first entered the village by boat and saw it appear through the trees,” DeOre said. “This trip showed me what true ingenuity looked like: we did rough concrete calculations standing in a hardware shop, had PVC pipes explode while installing water systems, and learned the most efficient ways to kill big spiders at a distance - all things that I wouldn’t have experienced elsewhere. It gave me a much broader perspective as to what engineering looks like in the real world and on a much broader, global spectrum. “Most importantly, we left the tribe with access to filtered water, a system to keep food fresh during dry fish-catching seasons, and a way to safely maneuver their community at night with no electricity,” DeOre continued. “They shared a story with us about a woman who suffered a medical emergency and was able to survive with the help of our portable solar lights that guided her safely up the river to medical attention.” DeOre will complete her undergraduate degree in December 2020. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in geotechnical engineering. ###

May
29
2019

For Attendees of the MSCI Engineering Sustainability Conference, Bi-Annual Event Feels Like a Homecoming

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (May 29, 2019) — “A Climate for Change” was the theme at this year’s Engineering Sustainability conference, hosted by the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) at the University of Pittsburgh with the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education & Research at Carnegie Mellon University. The conference dealt with something unique for a technical conference: It spent time talking about not only the “what” of sustainable innovations, but the “how.” How do you get people to actually change their perspective about sustainability? How do you create a climate where such changes can be successful? “The built environment helps to sustain our economy and way of life, but at the cost of heavy resource use and waste generation,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of the MCSI. “Our aim at this conference is to share innovative ideas about everything from water collection and treatment systems to building materials and transportation grids, all while fostering the collaborative climate necessary to do this work well.” That sort of climate, one that creates a fertile ground for professional growth and new ideas, has always been a part of what makes this Engineering Sustainability Conference special, according to Kovalcik. Attendees past and present remark that this conference is one they return to again and again, noting its cross-disciplinary opportunities and welcoming atmosphere. This year’s conference, which took place April 7-9 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, was even family-friendly, welcoming attendee’s children and offering private spaces for nursing mothers. “Gena has been instrumental in building this atmosphere at the conference,” says Melissa Bilec, PhD, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and deputy director of the MCSI. “Her personal approach is part of what makes this conference feel so welcoming.” Since 2005, the Engineering Sustainability Conference has been an approachable place for young engineers to explore their diverse career paths, carving out a space for discovery and community in the intersection of engineering and sustainability, academia and industry. It brings together scientists from academia, government, industry and nonprofits to share research and insights for environmentally sustainable buildings and infrastructure. Sessions regularly include topics that scientists from academia and industry can both engage with and utilize, as well as a diverse set of speakers. This year, attendees explored topics such as the regenerative built environment, sustainable mobility, circular economy, engineering sustainability learning and engagement, and behavioral science for sustainability, a new feature this year. Speakers from academia and industry share inspiring perspectives. The plenary speakers this year were Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of the Shelton Group (a marketing communications agency focused on energy and the environment), and Cyrus Wadia, former vice president of Sustainable Business & Innovation at NIKE, Inc. “One of the reasons it's challenging to work at the intersection of disciplines is because you still need an academic community. This conference provides that community, and has grown it over time,” says Leidy Klotz, PhD, Copenhaver Family Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment at the University of Virginia, who began attending the conference in 2007. “Now, budding scholars can refer to themselves as ‘Sustainability Engineers,’ and others recognize that as a legitimate pursuit. Creating that community in such a relatively short time is a tremendous accomplishment for a conference!” The Mascaro Center partnered with the Steinbrenner Institute at CMU to create a community where researchers interested in the emerging field of sustainability engineering could share ideas and support one another’s work. David Dzomback, PhD, Hamerschlag University Professor and head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University, has been a strong partner from the beginning. “We at Carnegie Mellon are grateful for the continuing partnership of our Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research with the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation in organizing the conference, which brings to Pittsburgh engineers and scientists from across North America,” says Dr. Dzomback. “The conference has benefitted multiple generations of students from Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, and numerous other institutions, helping them to advance sustainability in their careers.” For Freddy Paige, PhD, the conference he attended in his second year of graduate school confirmed his ambition to pursue a doctoral degree. Today, Dr. Paige is assistant professor in the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and assistant director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research. “This conference was the first conference in which I felt like I somewhat belonged in the rooms I was sitting in. Being there in 2015, I gained confidence and motivation toward sharing the knowledge that would improve society,” recalls Dr. Paige. “I also got a chance to see professors in a different light. While some ideas were challenged in traditional engineering format, most of the conversation I engaged in had a modern vibe that allowed for a critical conversation with a much more inviting tone.” In addition to the welcoming environment, students and new investigators can receive NSF funding for registration, travel and accommodations, a rarity at academic conferences. “When I first attended the conference in 2011, it seemed approachable and accessible, with a breadth that I found really intriguing,” says Brent Stephens, PhD, Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. “I was planning to defend my dissertation within about a year, and I was starting to think about job opportunities, so it was important to get my work out there and get more experience presenting. Then all of the sudden I also received NSF support to attend, which made it easy and accessible to attend.” One of the most significant draws for attendees, however, is the camaraderie that has developed over the years. “Somehow they make it feel more like a reunion every two years and something I strongly desire to go to each time,” remarks Dr. Stephens. “It marks a sort of ‘it’s been two years already?’ moment in my mind.” Annie Pearce, PhD, Associate Professor of Building Construction at Virginia Tech, has been attending the conference since it began in 2005 and has experienced first-hand how powerful the community is. Though she had to miss it this year, she has been a featured speaker, presenter and author and has brought students to the conference, as well. She also began serving on the MCSI External Advisory Board in 2011. “You see familiar faces every time, and they introduce you to new faces that you’ll see the next time,” says Dr. Pearce. “I find that it’s a great place to establish a dialogue that continues over time.” As a featured speaker in 2007, Dr. Pearce recounts that the engagement turned out to be a fateful one for her—she was on a plane to Pittsburgh for the conference when the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings took place on her campus. “I was lucky not to be on campus, but 32 of my colleagues and students were not so lucky. While I was heartbroken for my community back in Virginia, my friends and colleagues from the Mascaro Center and the conference overall made me feel wonderfully supported,” she says. “I leaned hard on them that year, for sure.” The Engineering Sustainability Conference will be back in 2021, gathering the community back to Pittsburgh once again, a fitting place for such a conference to have developed. The city is a living example of the “Climate for Change” that this year’s conference centered around. “Pittsburgh hasn’t always been beautiful—I remember what it was like back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when the mills were still running,” says Dr. Pearce, who is a native Pittsburgher. “However, it’s an amazing example of how a place can transform itself for the better when it has the right people, ideas, and investments. I miss it a lot, and I’m happy to know that I can go there with my students every two years and get ‘recharged’ with ideas.”
Maggie Pavlick
May
23
2019

Creating a Climate for Change

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (May 23, 2019) — “A Climate for Change” was the theme at this year’s Engineering Sustainability conference, hosted by the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) at the University of Pittsburgh with the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education & Research at Carnegie Mellon University. The conference dealt with something unique for a technical conference: It spent time talking about not only the “what” of sustainable innovations, but the “how.” How do you get people to actually change their perspective about sustainability? How do you create a climate where such changes can be successful? “The built environment helps to sustain our economy and way of life, but at the cost of heavy resource use and waste generation,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of the MCSI. “Our aim at this conference is to share innovative ideas about everything from water collection and treatment systems to building materials and transportation grids, all while fostering the collaborative climate necessary to do this work well.” That sort of climate, one that creates a fertile ground for professional growth and new ideas, has always been a part of what makes this Engineering Sustainability Conference special, according to Kovalcik. Attendees past and present remark that this conference is one they return to again and again, noting its cross-disciplinary opportunities and welcoming atmosphere. This year’s conference, which took place April 7-9 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, was even family-friendly, welcoming attendee’s children and offering private spaces for nursing mothers. “Gena has been instrumental in building this atmosphere at the conference,” says Melissa Bilec, PhD, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and deputy director of the MCSI. “Her personal approach is part of what makes this conference feel so welcoming.” Since 2005, the Engineering Sustainability Conference has been an approachable place for young engineers to explore their diverse career paths, carving out a space for discovery and community in the intersection of engineering and sustainability, academia and industry. It brings together scientists from academia, government, industry and nonprofits to share research and insights for environmentally sustainable buildings and infrastructure. Sessions regularly include topics that scientists from academia and industry can both engage with and utilize, as well as a diverse set of speakers. This year, attendees explored topics such as the regenerative built environment, sustainable mobility, circular economy, engineering sustainability learning and engagement, and behavioral science for sustainability, a new feature this year. Speakers from academia and industry share inspiring perspectives. The plenary speakers this year were Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of the Shelton Group (a marketing communications agency focused on energy and the environment), and Cyrus Wadia, former vice president of Sustainable Business & Innovation at NIKE, Inc. “One of the reasons it's challenging to work at the intersection of disciplines is because you still need an academic community. This conference provides that community, and has grown it over time,” says Leidy Klotz, PhD, Copenhaver Family Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment at the University of Virginia, who began attending the conference in 2007. “Now, budding scholars can refer to themselves as ‘Sustainability Engineers,’ and others recognize that as a legitimate pursuit. Creating that community in such a relatively short time is a tremendous accomplishment for a conference!” The Mascaro Center partnered with the Steinbrenner Institute at CMU to create a community where researchers interested in the emerging field of sustainability engineering could share ideas and support one another’s work. David Dzombak, PhD, Hamerschlag University Professor and head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University, has been a strong partner from the beginning. “We at Carnegie Mellon are grateful for the continuing partnership of our Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research with the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation in organizing the conference, which brings to Pittsburgh engineers and scientists from across North America,” says Dr. Dzombak. “The conference has benefitted multiple generations of students from Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, and numerous other institutions, helping them to advance sustainability in their careers.” For Freddy Paige, PhD, the conference he attended in his second year of graduate school confirmed his ambition to pursue a doctoral degree. Today, Dr. Paige is assistant professor in the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and assistant director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research. “This conference was the first conference in which I felt like I somewhat belonged in the rooms I was sitting in. Being there in 2015, I gained confidence and motivation toward sharing the knowledge that would improve society,” recalls Dr. Paige. “I also got a chance to see professors in a different light. While some ideas were challenged in traditional engineering format, most of the conversation I engaged in had a modern vibe that allowed for a critical conversation with a much more inviting tone.” In addition to the welcoming environment, students and new investigators can receive NSF funding for registration, travel and accommodations, a rarity at academic conferences. “When I first attended the conference in 2011, it seemed approachable and accessible, with a breadth that I found really intriguing,” says Brent Stephens, PhD, Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. “I was planning to defend my dissertation within about a year, and I was starting to think about job opportunities, so it was important to get my work out there and get more experience presenting. Then all of the sudden I also received NSF support to attend, which made it easy and accessible to attend.” One of the most significant draws for attendees, however, is the camaraderie that has developed over the years. “Somehow they make it feel more like a reunion every two years and something I strongly desire to go to each time,” remarks Dr. Stephens. “It marks a sort of ‘it’s been two years already?’ moment in my mind.” Annie Pearce, PhD, Associate Professor of Building Construction at Virginia Tech, has been attending the conference since it began in 2005 and has experienced first-hand how powerful the community is. Though she had to miss it this year, she has been a featured speaker, presenter and author and has brought students to the conference, as well. She also began serving on the MCSI External Advisory Board in 2011. “You see familiar faces every time, and they introduce you to new faces that you’ll see the next time,” says Dr. Pearce. “I find that it’s a great place to establish a dialogue that continues over time.” As a featured speaker in 2007, Dr. Pearce recounts that the engagement turned out to be a fateful one for her—she was on a plane to Pittsburgh for the conference when the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings took place on her campus. “I was lucky not to be on campus, but 32 of my colleagues and students were not so lucky. While I was heartbroken for my community back in Virginia, my friends and colleagues from the Mascaro Center and the conference overall made me feel wonderfully supported,” she says. “I leaned hard on them that year, for sure.” The Engineering Sustainability Conference will be back in 2021, gathering the community back to Pittsburgh once again, a fitting place for such a conference to have developed. The city is a living example of the “Climate for Change” that this year’s conference centered around. “Pittsburgh hasn’t always been beautiful—I remember what it was like back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when the mills were still running,” says Dr. Pearce, who is a native Pittsburgher. “However, it’s an amazing example of how a place can transform itself for the better when it has the right people, ideas, and investments. I miss it a lot, and I’m happy to know that I can go there with my students every two years and get ‘recharged’ with ideas.”
Maggie Pavlick
May
22
2019

Let's Clear the Air

Civil & Environmental, Diversity, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (May 22, 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
May
14
2019

Melissa Bilec Named Director of Faculty Community Building and Engagement for PITT STRIVE Program

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (May 14, 2019) — Melissa Bilec, PhD, associate professor Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, has been appointed Director of Faculty Community Building and Engagement in the PITT STRIVE Program. The PITT STRIVE Program works to improve the transitions of under-represented minorities into doctoral engineering programs. In this position, Dr. Bilec will lead key Faculty-Centered Strategies and Faculty Learning Community Activities to help improve faculty engagement with under-represented minority students. “We are very blessed to have a colleague of Dr. Bilec’s caliber join the PITT STRIVE Program Leadership Team,” says Sylvanus Wosu, PhD, associate dean for Diversity Affairs. “Dr. Bilec is passionate and committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity.” Dr. Bilec’s commitment to diversity extends beyond her work with PITT STRIVE. Dr. Bilec serves on the Engineering Diversity Advisory Committee, is the co-faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers, and was co-faculty advisor the Graduate Women Engineering Network. She received the 2017-2018 Swanson School of Engineering Diversity Award and has worked in the disadvantaged local community of Larimer on projects including energy assessments and indoor air quality assessments for the past 10 years.
Maggie Pavlick

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