Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Join With Us In Celebrating Our 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. 


Understanding the Microbial Community Hiding in Our Showers

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (July 22, 2020) — In Benedum Hall at the University of Pittsburgh, nine shower heads in three brand new shower stalls run for eight minutes every day. Eight minutes is the average time an American spends in the shower, though no one is using these showers for their typical purpose. Instead, they’re part of the Investigating Home Water and Aerosols’ Links to Opportunistic Pathogen Exposure (INHALE) Lab, led by Sarah Haig, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering. Prior to joining the Swanson School, Haig worked with cystic fibrosis patients and their families, testing their plumbing for opportunistic pathogens (OPs) that could pose danger to their compromised immune systems, like nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. “Parents would ask me a lot of questions about how to clean their shower head and what kind of shower head helps limit bacterial growth and exposure. I didn’t have good answers for them—we just don’t know,” said Haig. “That was part of the inspiration for the INHALE Lab, where we can compare how materials and in-home disinfection strategies impact microbes so that we can find those answers. The research can empower the public to make their own decisions regarding reducing microbial exposure at the final point of exposure: the fixtures in their homes.” The 250 square foot lab has its own water heaters and its own plumbing. The shower heads are a mix of standard plastic and metal shower heads and shower heads embedded with antimicrobial silver. Because the lab is new and has sat idle since the lockdowns began in March 2020, the lines need to be flushed daily to condition the pipes—and to allow bacteria to take up residence—before research can begin again in earnest. However, several projects will utilize the lab’s unique capabilities. One current project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will look at the effect of silver in shower heads on the OP Legionellaand whether antibiotic resistance is induced due to silver exposure.Another project, which has received seed grant funding from the Central Research Development Fund at Pitt, will examine the effectiveness of several prevention methods on the number of OPs that can become airborne when the shower is running—the most common way users are exposed to the OPs. The work will assess the effectiveness of disinfection strategies as well as different kinds of shower heads, including standard shower heads and ones modified with antimicrobial compounds or filtration devices. “It’s a scary thought, one I’d bet you’d never had before: You might be taking a shower in waterborne pathogens!” said Janet E. Stout, president of the Special Pathogens Laboratory, research associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt, and internationally recognized expert on the management and control of waterborne pathogens. “The INHALE lab will help us understand the microbes in our showers, how they’re disseminated, and most importantly, how to control them under conditions that replicate your own shower.” Eventually, Haig hopes the INHALE Lab’s research will help families, hospitals and other facilities make decisions that will keep vulnerable populations safe from potentially harmful OPs. “For healthy individuals, these OPs are not generally a problem. Water is not—and isn’t meant to be—sterile. But for people who are immunocompromised or have existing pulmonary conditions, they can be deadly,” she noted. “Opportunistic pathogens are natural members of the water community, so you can’t feasibly eliminate them, but it’s a numbers game. When you reduce the number of pathogens, you can reduce your risk – we now just need to focus on understanding how to do this.”
Maggie Pavlick

In Memoriam: John C. "Jack" Mascaro BSCE ’66 MSCE ’80, 1944-2020

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

From James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering: It is with great sadness to inform you that Jack Mascaro BSCE ’66 MSCE ’80, one of our outstanding alumni, volunteers, advocates, and benefactors, passed away this weekend after a hard-fought battle with illness. On behalf of our Swanson School community, I extend our deep condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.Jack was a creative, caring juggernaut of ideas and inspiration, and his passing leaves an emptiness in our hearts and minds. It was an incredible honor and privilege to work with him during my short tenure as dean thus far, but I know those of you who have a long history with Jack and his family experienced a deep connection and now share a tremendous loss. I hope your memories of his lighthearted spirit, curious intellect, and enthusiasm for our students and programs provide solace and smiles.As one of our Distinguished Alumni, Jack was lauded by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School for his contributions to Pitt, the region, and the profession, and was also honored by the University with the Chancellor’s Medallion. Thanks to his beneficence, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and our focus on sustainability will continue his legacy for generations. Most importantly, it was his passion for sustainability, and what he saw as its inexorable link to engineering, that will forever inform our mission to create new knowledge for the benefit of the human condition. He truly was an engineer’s engineer, and we can never thank him and his family enough for his generosity of mind and spirit. Please join me in expressing our sympathies to the Mascaro Family, and to thank them for Jack’s impact on our students, alumni, and entire Swanson School community. Visitation will be held this Thursday in McMurray and you may leave thoughts for the family at his obituary page. Sincerely,Jimmy Other Remembrances Some Random and Personal Observations. Jeffrey Burd, Tall Timber Group & Breaking Ground Magazine (7-21-20). Jack Mascaro, founder of one of Pittsburgh's largest construction firms, dies at 76. Tim Schooley, Pittsburgh Business Times (7-22-20). Pittsburgh builder and sustainability pioneer Jack Mascaro dies after long illness. Paul Guggenheimer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (7-23-20). John C. 'Jack' Mascaro / Builder of Heinz Field, science center embraced 'green' construction. Janice Crompton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (7-27-20). Founder of Mascaro Construction, Heinz Field builder, dies at age 75. Harry Funk, Washington Observer-Reporter (8-1-20).


Searching for the Silver Lining in Drinking Water Disinfection

Covid-19, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (July 7, 2020) … As workplaces prepare to reopen, precautionary measures like plexiglass barriers and sanitizer stations have been put in place to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Researchers and public health experts, however, warn that this might not be the only health concern to worry about. Buildings that have been relatively abandoned for months likely have stagnant water in the plumbing, and if not treated properly, this can be a breeding ground for bacteria. The National Science Foundation awarded a cross-disciplinary team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh $330,000 to examine the effect that silver, embedded in shower fixtures, has on water disinfection. “While the context of our proposed research is showers in homes, offices, healthcare facilities, and gyms under normal operation, the COVID-19 pandemic introduces a new relevance to our project,” said Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and lead researcher on the study. Municipally treated drinking water is not sterile. Instead, it is home to many types of microbes, the majority of which are not harmful. “Typically, the drinking water entering buildings contains a disinfectant residual, such as chlorine, to help prevent and reduce microbial growth,” explained Sarah Haig, assistant professor of CEE at Pitt. “However, changes in water chemistry, building fixtures and building operation, like the long periods without water use (stagnation) recently observed across the world during the COVID-19 pandemic will have unexpected consequences on building water quality.” According to Haig, the long stretches of stagnation can result in low to no disinfection residual being present in building water. This creates an ideal growth environment for many microbes such as Legionella pneumophila. Opportunistic pathogens (OPs) like Legionella pneumophila, which causes the respiratory Legionnaires’ disease, can become airborne simply by turning on a faucet or flushing a toilet. This poses an additional public health threat to a world that is already in the midst of a pandemic. There are various strategies for preventing illness, but researchers have yet to discover a perfect solution. The research will take place at Haig's INHALE Lab in the Swanson School of Engineering. Credit: Dr. Sarah Haig. “Water fixtures containing silver are believed to eliminate bacteria due to the antimicrobial properties of this heavy metal; however, heavy metal exposure is also known to transform some bacteria into antibiotic resistant forms,” said Gilbertson. Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to global health, food security, and development so Gilbertson and her colleagues will use this award to determine if these silver-coated fixtures provide a viable solution or are perhaps doing more harm than good. “Many aspects of both the water composition and water fixtures can influence how much and how fast silver interacts with bacteria,” explained Jill Millstone, associate professor of chemistry at Pitt. “We’ll work to quantify these factors and make connections between the presence of OPs and the amount, type, and rate of silver release. Uncovering these relationships should lead to more effective fixture design that maximizes antimicrobial activity and minimizes resistance build-up.” Janet E. Stout, president of the Special Pathogens Laboratory and an internationally recognized expert on Legionella, will also contribute to this work. “Conditions in the water systems of about 50 percent of large buildings promote Legionella growth and spread. Fatal infections occur at a rate of up to 30 percent in hospitals and 10 percent in the community. This research explores how we might interrupt the spread right at the fixture,” said Stout, who also holds and appointment as research associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt. The research will leverage the unique capabilities of Haig’s INHALE Lab, which houses three full-size shower stalls, each with its own water heater and three showerheads. This enables the research team to investigate the influence of different showerhead materials. The findings will reveal if silver is an effective strategy to mitigate bacteria in shower water as well as if it potentially induces antibiotic resistance. # # #


Making a Sustainable Impact Throughout Pitt and Our Communities

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

"MCSI remains committed to addressing global sustainability issues, connecting our domestic and international pursuits to create synergies locally, nationally, and internationally. We hope you enjoy this summary of the past year’s impacts, and we'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about the report's contents and MCSI's programs."


CEE Selects Jake Kline as the inaugural John F. Oyler Fellow

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 3, 2020) … Jake Kline, a University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University undergraduate student, was selected as the first recipient of the John F. Oyler Fellowship. The award, administered by Pitt’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will provide full tuition support to a student who is in good academic standing and specializing in structures or solids. Preference is given to a student who is participating in the Engineering Accelerated Graduate (EAGr) program and/or for master’s recruitment purposes. Kline, an upcoming alumnus of the Binary Engineering Program, will receive a dual bachelor’s degree in physics and civil engineering at the end of the summer. His interests lie in structural health monitoring and structural rehabilitation of older buildings. “My time in undergraduate civil engineering has helped me discover the variety of possibilities and applications if I further my education at Pitt,” he said, “and I look forward to expanding my knowledge of structural engineering.” Kline will participate in the EAGr program which provides qualified students with the opportunity to earn a bachelor of science (BS) and a master of science (MS) degree in five years. “Once I complete my academic commitments, I plan to pursue a career with Engineers Without Borders, as I firmly believe the principal duty of an engineer is to make the world a better place,” he said. The John F. Oyler Fellowship was generously funded by a gift from the John Francis Oyler and Nancy Lee Victoria Fleck Oyler Foundation to recognize Dr. Oyler’s long standing connection to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. About John F. Oyler Dr. Oyler was a professor in the Swanson School for 25 years before retiring in 2018. He began his teaching career after 40 years in industry, where he worked for Dravo Corporation, Daxus Corporation, and his own consulting firm, Oyler Consulting Services. During his time at Pitt, he taught Statics, Mechanics of Materials, Materials of Construction, and Senior Design Projects. He hopes that this fellowship will help jumpstart students’ careers in the field in which he dedicated more than 65 years of service.

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