MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering hosted the New Millennium Colloquium on the Future of Civil and Environmental Engineering last March 19—21, 2000. Chaired by Professor Frank E. Perkins, it was an extraordinary event with over 250 participants, including representatives, mostly department heads, of over 75 Civil and Environmental Engineering Programs throughout the nation and the world. Two university presidents, the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the CEO of ITT Industries led a star-studded program and debate that should define the New Civil and Environmental Engineer.

It is impossible to detail outcomes here; nevertheless some key areas of consensus resulting from the Colloquium were:

It was satisfying to see that the Colloquium deliberations overlapped very well with the department’s new Strategic Plan which was published for the Colloquium.

Our motto, "We love to make things happen," exemplifies the dynamic innovative spirit that dictates our actions. Our mission is to provide the skills and foundations for lifelong learning and growth focussing in three core areas: the built environment, the natural environment, and information and engineering systems.

We set seven major goals:

Following the Colloquium the CEE Department held a memorable Alumni/ae Reunion. Over 300 former students and friends joined us to celebrate the past and the future. We announced, as planned, the Donald and Martha Harleman Professorship, funded with the contributions of some 300 friends over last year.

We continue to hire and develop extraordinary young faculty. This year we hired Professor David Simchi-Levi as a tenured full professor. He is the first faculty member hired into a dual appointment between a department and the Engineering Systems Division. Professors Elfatih Eltahir and Heidi Nepf were granted tenure. Professors Dara Entekhabi and Andrew Whittle were promoted to full professors.


Although this coming year we will see a small rebound in undergraduate enrollment, it continues to be our main source of concern.

Cyclical fluctuations in CEE enrollment (as is also the case in other engineering departments) are well documented, but we feel that changes have occurred that alter the enrollment models. The explosion of information technology and associated activity and wealth is the dominant new factor. Within MIT, the admission process and the nonlinear effect of peer influence in the choice of majors (i.e., the more of one major, the more you will recruit to that same major) makes it very hard to alter trends. Nevertheless we remain very committed to undergraduate education in Civil and Environmental Engineering and to the idea of servicing the MIT undergraduate population. Our new curricula provide quality education and is responsive to a new market. We are exploring new concepts for Institute-wide offerings in the area of Information Technology.

Last year we pursued a multi-pronged strategy to project the excitement and opportunities in Civil and Environmental Engineering to MIT undergraduates. These included writing to the admitted pool of students, two open houses, offering a study trip to the Everglades, publicizing the many available job opportunities, and guaranteeing a summer internship. The latter program has been extremely successful with many participating companies willing to hire our students. More important is the on-going implementation of the new curricula for both undergraduate degrees. These are exciting, problem-driven, learning-by-doing curricula. The first class will graduate next year.

Our Strategic Plan supports the idea of the Masters of Engineering as a first professional degree. Undergraduate education must be the solid cornerstone to additional professional studies of ever-expanding nature. To support this concept, the Department has developed a policy of automatic and seamless admission and transition of our undergraduates into our M.Eng. program, if their career grade point average exceeds a threshold. We are seeing increasing interest in this program from our undergraduates.


Graduate education continues to thrive within the Department. In contrast to many other engineering departments, Civil and Environmental Engineering emphasizes the Masters program as the ideal first professional degree. It accounts for 162 of our 279 graduate students. The very successful Masters of Engineering program graduated its fifth class of 47 students. The graduates are in very high demand and receive well-paid multiple offers. Next year the program will go over its projected enrollment objectives with an enrollment close to 72 students.

Our Strategic Plan calls for increasing fellowship support for graduate students, in particular doctoral candidates (M.Eng. students are self supported except for a handful of half tuition fellowships available on a merit basis). The Department, with the help of initiatives from the School and the Institute, has been making progress on this front. Thirty-two fellowships were granted this year to incoming graduate students. Of all our graduate students, 58 were supported by fellowships, 177 by Research Assistantships, 50 by Teaching Assistantships and 41 were self-supported or received support from sources beyond our control.

This year’s admission cycle went very well. We received a total of 3608 inquiries, compared to 3204 last year. These translated to 590 applicants (487 last year). The proportion of US citizen applicants remains at about 31%, or 181 applicants. We would like to increase this proportion. Fifty-two percent of applicants were offered admission and a total of 155 individuals have accepted the offer. Our biggest competitors, based on surveys of declined offers, are Stanford and Berkeley that together wooed 42 individuals we had also admitted.


Professor Kevin Aramatunga received a NSF Career Award this year.

Professor Cynthia Barnhart, Keith Ware (UPS) and Andrew Armacost (ORC Ph.D. student) received the Best Conference Paper Award for a paper entitled, "Planning Models for Designing Express Shipment Service Networks," presented at the AGIFORS 39th Annual Symposium, New Orleans, LA.

The Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) selected Rafael Bras to receive the Albert Baez, Jr. Award and the Outstanding Educator Award. "The essence of this award program is to present accomplished role models to our nation." This year’s Martin Luther King Leadership Award for faculty members was given to Professor Rafael Bras at MIT’s annual MLK program.

Professor Ismail Chabini received the NSF CAREER Award and appointed an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems.

"Policy Studies in Engineering Education-A Tribute to Professor Richard de Neufville," an afternoon of talks held on May 5, commemorated Professor de Neufville's 25 years with the Technology and Policy Program.

At the American Institute of Hydrology annual meeting in November 1999, Professor Peter Eagleson was given the Ray K. Linsley Award for outstanding contributions to hydrology.

Honors given at the annual CEE Department dinner in September included Effective Teaching Awards to Professors Sarah Slaughter and Philip Gschwend. An outstanding Service to the department award went to Professor Jerome Connor.

Three NSF Faculty Early Career Development awards were presented to CEE faculty. Professor Patricia Culligan’s research project is on the use of the geotechnical centrifuge for physical modeling of geo-environmental and geotechnical problems. Professor Charles Harvey will revisit two basic processes in hydrogeology: solute transport in heterogeneous formations and chemical mixing in porous media. Professor Feniosky Peña-Mora will study collaborative negotiation methodology for large-scale infrastructure projects.

Professor Elfatih A. B. Eltahir was awarded the 1999 Kuwait Prize in Applied Sciences (Climate Change) by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science. Professor Eltahir was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.

Professor Dara Entekhabi was promoted to Full Professor.

Professor Lynn W. Gelhar has been appointed to the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council Committee that is reviewing the environmental remediation science and technology activities at the Department of Energy's Hanford site in eastern Washington.

Professor Eduardo Kausel received the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize from the Federal Republic of Germany which is among the most prestigious research awards given by the German government to foreign nationals. Wave Motion in Earthquake Engineering by Professor Eduardo Kausel and George Manolis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) was recently published by the MIT Press.

At the ASCE annual meeting in October in Charlotte, NC, Professor Charles Ladd received the Karl Terzaghi Award to recognize decades of innovative research dealing with the strength properties of soft clays and consultation on projects involving structures placed on such soils.

Professor Heidi Nepf’s research in wetland hydrodynamics will be a feature article in an upcoming issue of Natural New England magazine. Professor Heidi Nepf was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.

Professor Feniosky Peña-Mora received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the US government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of establishing their independent research careers.

One of the two new holders of the 2000 Doherty Professorship in Ocean Utilization from the MIT Sea Grant College Program is Professor Martin Polz. He develops molecular approaches to understand the structure and function of microbial communities as key elements of marine and aquatic ecosystems.

The Boston Business Journal has declared senior lecturer Fred Salvucci ’61 & ’62 to be one of the most influential Bostonians of the 20th century.

Professor Joseph Sussman's Introduction to Transportation Systems, an up-to-date survey of modern transportation, was published by Artech House of Boston.

Professor Andrew Whittle was promoted to Full Professor.


In response to our Strategic Thrusts a group of faculty led by Professors Kevin Amaratunga and Franz Ulm have developed the concept of I-City, a vision of the city of the future. The premise is that the building, operating and maintenance of infrastructure will soon be based on extensive monitoring and sampling; on signal processing for condition assessment; on simulation and prediction at a variety of scales and resolution; and on decision making and control based on observations and modeling. The City of the Future will intensively use information for managing its built and natural environment.The I-City concept is under discussion with a variety of international partners. The concept will be tested as part of a Mircosoft I-Campus project that will monitor the state of several locations around the MIT campus and use the information in laboratory experiences.

CEE faculty are major players in two other I-Campus initiatives. Professors Chiang C. Mei and Heidi Nepf are developing a modular, web-based curriculum for fluid mechanics that is designed to take advantage of content leveraging by creating pedogogical and software methodologies to tailor the same "Active Learning Tools to Enrich Engineering Education" project. Professor John Miller has commenced with an ambitious attempt to form the American Infrastructure Consortium, an inter-disciplinary group of commercial, government, and non-governmental organizations focused on improving the quality and cost performance of collections of public and private infrastructure facilities. Professors Charles Harvey and Harold Hemond have initiated a major project, funded by NSF and the Alliance for Global Sustainability, on the arsenic contamination of the well water supply of Bangladesh, probably one of the largest public health crises of modern times.

The department is a leading player in the formulation of a major environmental initiative on campus, The Earth Systems Institute: The New Ecology.


Four CEE students were honored at the 2000 MIT Awards Convocation in May: Sarah McDougal ’00 (1-E) received the William L. Stewart, Jr. Award for her outstanding contribution to extracurricular activities and events at MIT last year. For excellence in athletic competition (multiple fencing championships), Caroline Purcell ’02 (1-C) won the Betsy Schumacker Award. Hiep Nguyen, a graduate student in Construction Engineering and Management, won a first place Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts, for demonstrating excellence in creating a body of work in the visual arts. Anne T. McLeod ’00 (1-C) received the Priscilla King Gray Award for Public Service for being exceptionally committed to public service at MIT and its surrounding communities.

Alyssa Thorvaldsen ’00 won the Phillip Trussel Prize for a female athlete who demonstrates "skill, sportsmanship and levity."

Theater Arts presented a special plaque to graduate student Kortney Adams in honor of her performances in several productions as well as her "craftsmanship of particular distinction" for her work in the MIT Costume Shop.

Walid Fayad won this year’s Guanassia Prize which goes to a graduate student from either the Ecole Centrale or the Lycee Louis le Grand in France.

Nathan L. Burnham ’00 received the Steinberg Prize, awarded to an undergraduate for academic achievement and demonstrable interest in construction management.

The Richard Lee Russel Award for an outstanding or continuing undergraduate in CEE who plans to continue with graduate study went to Yat Lun Wesley Choi ’00.

Amber E. Crabbe ’00 and Nathaniel J. Grier ’00 shared the Leo ’24 and Mary Grossman Award, given to an undergraduate with a strong interest in transportation and a strong academic record.

A special award from the Department went to Anne T. McLeod ’00 in recognition of her academic achievement and outstanding service to the Institute.

An Effective Teaching Assistant Award went to Laurent Levy for his work with 1.010 Uncertainty in Engineering in fall 1998.

Outstanding Service to the Department awards went to graduate student Salal Humair (TA for 1.00 Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving), and Yasmin Rehmanjee ’00.

Among the new MIT Phi Beta Kappa initiates are CEE graduating seniors Anne McLeod and Jantrue Ting.

The first Charles "Harrison" Smith III Memorial Award was given to Terence Emmert, a CEE graduate student and a member of the Leaders for Manufacturing Class of 2001. The award gives the class the opportunity to recognize the efforts of those classmates who have improved the LMF experience both within and outside of the program.

Writing prizes were bestowed on several CEE students by the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. Yanni Kosta Tsipis ’01 (CEE & Urban Planning) received first place in the Boit Manuscript Prize essay category for "The Last Road to Boston." Samidh Chakrabarti ’01 (CEE & EECS) won second place in the Dewitt Wallace Prizes for Science Writing for the Public with "Message in a Bottle," "Ladybug," a short story by Tobert Ziemian ’00, won an honorable mention in the Robert A. Boit Writing Prize.

Three of Professor John Williams’ graduate students, Abel Sanchez, Hai Ning and Jeff Chi, have received the McGovern Award, given by Patrick J. McGovern of International Data Group for "outstanding achievement that promoted the quality and spirit of entrepreneurialism at MIT in 1999—2000." They organized and launched e-MIT, the entrepreneurialship portal that enables the MIT community and friends of the Institute to find in one place a variety of entrepreneurial events programs, resources, and venture.

Two of the new members of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society to award excellence and integrity, are Matthew Howes ’99 and Yasmin Rehmanjee ’00.

For demonstrating "remarkable inventiveness and serving as an inspiring science and technology role model for young Americans," Amy Smith won the 6th annual Lemelson-MIT Program student prize for inventiveness. A graduate student in the Technology and Policy Program who has worked with Professor Herbert Einstein, she developed a phase-change incubator which does not require electricity.

For the second year in a row, graduate student Jeremy Pal was the top fundraiser at the annual CEE Telethon. The 34 callers contacted 304 alumni and secured 216 gifts and pledges totaling $25,822. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated and contributed!

More information about the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering can be found on the World Wide Web at http//

Rafael L. Bras

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000