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. 


Pitt, University of Puerto Rico engineers build upon NSF grant to apply materials science research to bamboo as a nonconventional building resource

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (September 15, 2016) … Although bamboo has been used as a building material for millennia, only recently have public and private organizations studied the plant’s mechanical properties and worked toward developing construction standards. To further that research, engineering faculty at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM) received a $300,000 National Science Foundation award to develop materials- and mechanics-based models for the behavior of full-culm bamboo as a functionally graded, fiber-reinforced material. Principal investigator of the grant, “Collaborative Research: Full-culm Bamboo as a Full-fledged Engineering Material,” is Kent Harries, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and Bicentennial Board of Visitors Faculty Fellow at Pitt. Co-investigators are John Brigham, senior lecturer of applied mechanics at Durham University, and Christopher Papadopoulos, associate professor of engineering sciences and materials at UPRM. According to Dr. Harries, this is believed to be the first “materials science” study focused on bamboo funded by NSF, and is the first collaborative grant between the Swanson School and UPRM. The research is part of the recently formed Nonconventional Engineering Materials Initiative (NocEMat) at Pitt. “In its natural full-culm (hollow tube) state, bamboo has evolved to efficiently resist a variety of environmental loads, which is why it makes a superb building material. However, only in the past few decades have we begun to apply engineering principles to its use so that we can expand its application as a sustainable construction material,” Dr. Harries said. “This award will enable us to apply materials and mechanical engineering principles to modeling, field tests, and design equations, thereby placing bamboo on the same engineering footing as more conventional materials such as wood.” Dr. Harries notes that in developing regions, standardization of non-conventional building materials serves technical, ecological and social goals which empower rural communities to directly participate in construction of safe and reliable housing as well as to sustainably develop local economies. In particular, this project will leverage local resources in Puerto Rico and Haiti to sponsor a variety of training and educational activities deployed in four languages (English, Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole). “In many areas of the world, traditional building materials such as timber, concrete and steel are too expensive or simply unavailable for everyday use, especially within developing countries,” Dr. Harries said. “Full-culm bamboo provides the potential of utilizing a sustainable, durable and affordable resource for housing, emergency shelters, and other traditional building applications.” ###


NSF awards Pitt environmental engineering professor with grant to study decline of pollinating insects

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (August 10, 2016) … The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Vikas Khanna, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, with a $259,582 grant to investigate the impact of declining insect-mediated pollination on the United States economy. Previous studies on insects that carry pollen from flower to flower generally focus on agricultural yields. “Collaborative Research: Quantifying the Critical Importance of Insect-mediated Pollination Service for the U.S. Economy” will expand the research to the impact of these insects on associated industrial sectors. “Economic sectors that are directly impacted by insect-mediated pollination are the agricultural sectors, for example: fruit, tree nut, vegetable and melon farming,” said Khanna. “However, there are other sectors that are indirectly dependent on insect-mediated pollination. These include sectors that provide raw materials and inputs to agricultural sectors such as fertilizer manufacturing, pesticides and agricultural chemical manufacturing and even power generation.” Christina Grozinger, distinguished professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State University, will join Khanna on the study. Grozinger lend her expertise in pollinator biology and health to complement Khanna’s understanding of sustainability science and engineering. Penn State will receive an additional $80,000 from NSF. Prior to receiving the grant from NSF, Khanna published a paper describing some preliminary results on this topic in the December issue of Environmental Science and Technology. The paper was selected as the First Runner Up for the Best Papers of 2015. The researchers anticipate this study to lead to a greater appreciation of the role of surrounding ecosystems on the development of economic products and services, with an emphasis on the need to conserve pollination species, including honey bees and other wild insects. “Understanding the economic value of pollination services attributable to managed honeybees and wild insects will help highlight the critical importance and dependence of the U.S. economy on pollinators and the role played by pollinators in sustaining human and industrial activity. Additionally, estimating economic value of insect pollination is likely to help set a higher priority for conservation,” said Khanna. The three-year grant continues through June 30, 2019. ### Image below: Decline in Honey Bee colonies in the U.S. over time based on data available from the United States Department of Agriculture. Click here to download a high-resolution file.
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Civil Engineering Associate Professor Melissa Bilec wins 2016 UPPDA Mentor Award

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (May 24, 2016) … The University of Pittsburgh Postdoctoral Association (UPPDA) Executive Board has selected Melissa Bilec, associate professor in the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as the 2016 Mentor Award winner. Dr. Bilec also serves as Deputy Director of Pitt's Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. “I thought that I was having a positive effect, but you never really know,” said Bilec. “I’ve tried with all my students to find out what their passions are and what their long-term goals are. I think that helping them identify and achieve those goals makes them better prepared for their future positions.” The UPPDA Mentor Award recognizes a University of Pittsburgh faculty member who shows exceptional mentoring ability by: advocating for postdoctoral scholars; providing open lines of communication to postdocs; creating a supportive environment for research and helping postdocs achieve their goals; providing guidance in professional development and assisting postdocs in building a professional network and demonstrating a commitment to creating a productive working environment. Bilec was honored for the award by faculty members and postdocs at the Postdoctoral Data & Dine Symposium on May 17. The guidelines for the UPPDA Mentor Award are modeled after the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) Mentor Award. Bilec will also receive the University of Pittsburgh nomination for the 2017 NPA Mentor Award.   “Having colleagues that serve as co-mentors and offer guidance in the trenches is really important,” Bilec added. “I benefitted immensely from mentors at Pitt who were going through the same difficulties as me and could act as a sounding board for my questions.” ###


NIH grant to support continuation of joint regenerative medicine program between Pitt and Carnegie Mellon

Bioengineering, Civil & Environmental, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (May 18, 2016) … With the goal of advancing regenerative medicine therapies, a partnership between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University has received a five-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide training in biomechanical engineering principles and biology to students pursuing a doctoral degree in bioengineering. “Training in Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine” (BiRM) is funded through the NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering’s T32 grant program. The program director and principal investigator is Savio L-Y. Woo, PhD, D.Sc., D.Eng., Distinguished University Professor of Bioengineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and the founder and director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center (MSRC) at Pitt. He is joined by co-investigators, James Antaki, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and David Vorp, PhD, Associate Dean for Research and the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering at the Swanson School. According to Drs. Woo, Antaki and Vorp, regenerative medicine uses methods including tissue engineering, cellular therapies, biosurgery and artificial and biohybrid organ devices, to address tissue/organ insufficiency. Yet despite several early successes, bioengineers have faced challenges in repairing or replacing tissues that serve a predominantly biomechanical function. The Pitt-CMU program aims to bridge that gap by training students in both biomechanical engineering principles and biology. “Regenerative medicine is at a critical juncture in its evolution, and Pitt and CMU are uniquely positioned to create an interdisciplinary program to benefit our graduate students,” Dr. Woo said. “Since the BiRM program is not central to any one department, it provides students with both fundamental knowledge and problem-solving skills as well as inter-departmental didactic and research experiences, and specialized training in areas such as innovation and entrepreneurship.” To develop these diverse skills, BiRM incorporates faculty from Pitt’s departments of Bioengineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science in the Swanson School of Engineering; Carnegie Mellon’s departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering; and Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences, including the School of Dental Medicine, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, and Division of Cardiology. BiRM faculty also have appointments in the joint Pitt-CMU Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Woo noted that during BiRM's first two cohorts, 30 students gained a solid foundation for productive and independent careers in academia, industry, and medicine spanning a wide range of physiological systems including orthopedics, vascular surgery, dentistry, urology, and others. Over the next five years, the Pitt-CMU partnership seeks to sponsor six pre-doctoral fellowships per year corresponding to approximately 14 additional fellowships over the course of the program, as well as to allow further development of the curriculum and increase the emphasis on clinical translation of biomechanics and regenerative medicine research. ###


Construction experts at University of Pittsburgh symposium call for bamboo to become 21st century building material

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (May 16, 2016) ... Bamboo has a critical role to play in the provision of safe and affordable housing and could be a key contributor to greener urban environments worldwide, according to a leading group of academics, architects and construction experts. This strategic resource combines rapidly renewable properties, strength, and cost-effectiveness – making it an ideal building material and a potential driver of sustainable development in many parts of the world. The case for bamboo is outlined in the ‘Pittsburgh Declaration’ – a global call-to-action that seeks to increase international recognition of the benefits of bamboo, and outlines recommendations designed to more effectively harness the plant as a building material. Bamboo's benefits have been recognized recently, following earthquakes in Nepal and Ecuador, where bamboo structures often fared better than buildings made from conventional construction material such as concrete. Bamboo is now expected to play an important role in both countries’ reconstruction. The Declaration follows a meeting at the University of Pittsburgh - the ‘Symposium on Bamboo in the Urban Environment,’ part of a US-State Department and UK British Council-funded Global innovation Initiative (GII) project that is supporting the development of bamboo as a sustainable and engineered alternative construction material. The meeting, which brought together academic, private sector and civil society actors from 14 countries and territories, was jointly organized by the University of Pittsburgh, Coventry University, and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), a  multilateral organization with 41 member states. To ensure bamboo is harnessed more effectively and becomes a viable building material for the future, the Declaration makes several recommendations. A key consideration is international standards - the plant’s use in modern structures has been previously hampered by a lack of formal standards and codes. The Declaration therefore invites all bamboo-producer and consumer countries to participate in bamboo standard development within the newly established International Standards Organization (ISO) Technical Committee 296; and to share information and coordinate efforts on  new harmonized, best-practice international ISO design standard for round culm bamboo. Other recommendations include inviting businesses, industry and academia to advance national and international standards cooperation; encouraging researchers and business to validate the adoption of testing standards; and requesting the development of a new standard on the structural uses of laminated bamboo. “The Pittsburgh Declaration clearly demonstrates a growing consensus among experts on the need to harness bamboo as a building material,” says Oliver Frith, INBAR’s Global Programme Director. “Bamboo is a practical, cost-effective and sustainable option that will provide affordable, and as we have seen recently in Nepal and Ecuador, resilient and secure homes. The recommendations included in the Declaration are an important milestone and offer a framework to ensure the plant plays a more significant role in construction.” “The international standardization process promulgated by the Declaration is instrumental to developing broad recognition of bamboo as an engineered construction material,” says Kent Harries, FACI, FIIFC, P.Eng., Associate Professor of Structural Engineering and Mechanics at Pitt’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and conference organizer. “Our continuing research at Pitt and other institutions have shown bamboo is one of nature’s perfect building materials, and is primed for greater international use. As the global population continues to increase and the threat of natural and climate disasters threaten greater numbers of people, bamboo is especially poised to become our go-to material for emergency shelters.” ### About the Pittsburgh Declaration The Pittsburgh Declaration is a call to action to promote bamboo and initiate more strategic efforts to harness this strategic resource as a practical, affordable and sustainable building material. The Declaration was issued at the conclusion of the ‘Symposium on Bamboo in the Environment,’ held at the University of Pittsburgh, USA, May 4-6, 2015. The Symposium brought together academic, private sector and civil society actors from 14 countries and territories, and was jointly organized by the University of Pittsburgh, Coventry University, and INBAR. The Declaration can be downloaded here. The recorded proceedings of the Symposium will be archived and made freely available through both the University of Pittsburgh and INBAR websites. The International Network of Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) INBAR is an intergovernmental organization established in 1997 dedicated to improving the social, economic and environmental benefits of bamboo and rattan. INBAR plays a unique role in finding and demonstrating innovative ways of using bamboo and rattan to protect environments and biodiversity, alleviate poverty and facilitate fairer pro-poor trade. INBAR connects a global network of partners from the government, private, and not-for-profit sectors in over 50 countries to define and implement a global agenda for sustainable development through bamboo and rattan. www.inbar.intINBAR Construction Taskforce The bamboo construction taskforce, facilitated by INBAR, coordinates the activities of international research institutes and commercial companies interested in the structural uses of bamboo. The Taskforce supports INBAR’s membership of the Global Network for Sustainable Housing – the world’s premier knowledge network on sustainable housing, hosted by UNHabitat in Nairobi. Its overall objective is to act as the world’s premier information and knowledge center on structural uses of bamboo. www.inbar.int/taskforce
Jack Durrell, INBAR

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