Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

In its third revision since 1993, the Strategic Plan of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) re-affirms three core areas of endeavor: the built environment, the natural environment, and information-engineering systems. We are committed to:

We set seven goals:

On March 19-21, 2000, we hosted the New Millennium Colloquium on the Future of Civil and Environmental Engineering in order to seek input and ideas as well as to present our own plans. Last June we reported on the findings of the Colloquium. Since then, we have distributed the proceedings via electronic media and have enjoyed the satisfaction of observing its positive impact on the profession.

In the following we summarize particular activities, in education and research, that have resulted from our planning effort as well as the colloquium.

Undergraduate Education

We have been concerned with undergraduate enrollment and have worked extremely hard to make our programs more attractive. We want to become the best and the most welcoming department at MIT. Last year, we outlined our strategy, spearheaded by major curriculum changes and increased outreach.

Our sophomore enrollment for the coming year, so far, shows that we are holding our own and have reversed, for two years in a row, the major enrollment drop that shows in next year's junior class. Presently, we have 23 sophomores, 18 juniors, and 28 seniors. We are confident that hard work will continue to pay and that we can operate successfully even in an unfavorable institutional and national environment.

In response to our goals, the undergraduate degrees are now very aligned with our educational philosophy and thrust areas. This was the graduating year for the first students operating under the new curriculum. We have developed the elements of a new Information Technology and Computation undergraduate program that is being discussed with others at the Institute in order to define an implementation strategy within CEE or, most probably, in collaboration with others. Our Master of Engineering program is increasingly attracting our own graduates, in consonance with our goal of making it the first professional degree, with a seamless transition from the undergraduate experience.

We have instituted a very successful program of IAP travel-study for undergraduates. Last year, some of the class went to do environmental field work in Hawaii and some went to Puerto Rico to study the San Juan subway system. This concept is being expanded and formalized further. We have been successful in attracting funding, including resources for its extension to the freshmen year. Ms. Sheila Frankel, Research Associate and Lecturer, has been instrumental in this activity.

Our successful Summer Internship Program continues. This year we placed our 26 students in relevant summer employment. The program is being reviewed and expanded and its success has played a major role in the School of Engineering move to create a similar school-wide initiative.

Professors Culligan and Whittle have developed the guidelines for undergraduate exchanges with Cambridge University within the Cambridge-MIT Initiative (CMI) program. One of our undergraduates is part of the first batch of MIT students going to Cambridge next year.

return to top

Graduate Education

Our graduate program continues to thrive. The Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) program graduated its sixth and largest class of 62. A new business plan was prepared and approved and steps have been taken to improve operations and maintain quality, including a reduction of the number of admitted students and hence the size of the incoming class.

Travel-study has also become an integral part of M.Eng. This past year, students worked and traveled to places like Haiti, Nepal, London, Lebanon, and Turkey. The experiences have been worthwhile.

We were successful with a proposal to work within the CMI program to create an M.Phil. program in Cambridge, patterned after our M.Eng. and dealing with environmental and sustainability.

Last year, we had 289 graduate students. The Master's degree (M.S. or M.Eng.) remains a major product and attraction with 188 students. The doctoral programs were nevertheless healthy with 101 students.

We had a successful admission cycle. We received a total of 4153 inquiries compared to 3608 last year. These translated to 549 applicants (590 last year). The proportion of U.S. applicants was 26 percent. This is the department's, and MIT's, biggest concern. Some 51percent of applicants were offered admission and 129 have accepted the offer. Of these, 58 have received financial aid in the form of fellowships or research assistantships. Please note that M.Eng. students cannot receive research assistantships. Very few of them receive half-tuition fellowships. These restrictions are by design.

return to top

Faculty Notes

After completing a nine-year term, Professor Rafael Bras has stepped down as head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and received a Giants of Science Award (Quality Education for Minorities). He is working with Professor Chisholm to spearhead the MIT Earth Systems Initiative.

Under the aegis of the Cambridge-MIT Initiative, Eric Adams is initiating a 4-year project to help develop a professional masters degree program in Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Development at Cambridge University.

Professor Cynthia Barnhart is an Associate Editor for Transportation Science in the area of Network Design and Network Modeling (1993-2000). She was awarded "Best Research Paper" for "Composite Variables for Service Network Design," with Armacost, A., and Ware, K.

Professor Oral Buyukozturk gave the keynote lecture on "Nondestructive Evaluation of Structures" at the International Conference on High Performance Materials, held in Hong Kong, December 10-15, 2000.

Professor Sallie Chisholm is chairing the search committee for the next department head. At the same time, she is also spearheading the Earth Systems Initiative. She spoke in November 2000 at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, on "The Invisible Forest: Phytoplankton and Climate" as part of the Capitol Science Lecture Series.

Professor Patricia Culligan delivered a keynote lecture on her work at an international symposium held in La Baule, France. In addition, she was appointed to the editorial board of two journals in her field. With Professor Heidi Nepf, Dr. Culligan also continues to develop educational programs on the environment for high school students.

Professor Herbert Einstein is Principal Investigator of an I-Campus project. He delivered the keynote lecture on Uncertainties in Landslide Analysis, at the United Engineering Foundation (UEF) Conference on Landslides.

Professor Fatih Eltahir was awarded the Kuwait Prize in ceremony hosted by the Emir of Kuwait in November of 2000, and delivered the keynote lecture. He also joined the Editorial Board for Advances in Water Resources.

Professor Dara Entekhabi was named Editor of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Hydrometeorology, and Chair of the National Research Council's Committee on Hydrologic Science.

Professor Steven Lerman finished his term as Chair of the MIT Faculty this year and served on the Carnegie Mellon University Advisory Board for their Computing Services group.

Professor Ole Madsen was awarded the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) "2001 International Coastal Engineering Award."

Professor Dennis McLaughlin was elected Deputy Editor of Water Resource Research (responsible for resource economics, policy, and systems).

The Army Corps' Chief of Engineers, Lieutenant General Robert Flowers, awarded Professor Fred Moavenzadeh the de Fleruy Medal for his service to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Professor Heidi Nepf was named a MacVicar Fellow this year. She served as Co-Director of Education Outreach with Professor Patricia Culligan.

Dr. Rory O'Connor has just joined the Department as Assistant Professor in the Engineering Systems Group. His appointment is part of the strategic plan to expand our strength in Information Technology.

Professor David Simchi-Levi co-authored the book Designing and Managing the Supply Chain: Concepts, Strategies and Case Studies (with P. Kaminsky and E. Simchi-Levi), which won several awards: the Outstanding IIE Publication Prize by the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the IIE Joint Publishers Book-of-the-Year Prize by the Institute of Industrial Engineers, and the Outstanding First Edition of the Year Prize by McGraw-Hill/Irwin. Professor Simchi-Levi has also been appointed as an Editor in the area of Supply Chain/Production-Inventory Systems for IIE Transactions.

Professor Sarah Slaughter will continue as CEO and President of MOCA Systems, the company she founded. The May 2001 issue of Fortune Small Business featured MOCA Systems as one of 65 Next Hot Companies.

Professor Joseph Sussman is working on the Mexico City project, focusing on developing top-down scenarios to identify policy options that can ameliorate the profound environmental problems of the huge city, without compromising mobility and economic growth objectives.

Professor Robert Whitman presented the Nabor Carrillo Lecture to the Mexican Society of Soil Mechanics in November 2000 on "Fifty Years of Soil Dynamics."

Professor Andrew Whittle has become an editor for the International Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics (Wiley).

Since January 2001, Professor Nigel Wilson has been leading a program with the University of Illinois aimed at making the Chicago Transit Authority more competitive in the 21st century.

Professor Shi-Chang Wooh was elected as an international advisory board member of the Nondestructive Testing and Evaluation (NDT&E) International Journal and is now serving the International Conference on Theoretical, Computational, and Experimental Mechanics as an advisory committee member.

return to top

Research Highlights

Last year, we reported that the department was initiating two banner research programs consistent with our thrusts and goals. The Intelligent City of the Future, I-City, focuses on sensing, data management and integration of information and infrastructure for operation, management, design, and maintenance. This concept is being expressed in some of our I-Campus involvement. Similarly, the idea is integral to an international initiative being explored with Delft University of Science and Technology and has been presented to colleagues in Cambridge as a potential CMI program. The Earth Systems Initiative (ESI) seeks to exploit MIT's strength in science and technology to deal with problems of the earth environment. The concept is to look at earth systematically, measuring and diagnosing its problems, characterizing and quantifying its health, and predicting its future; much like modern medicine does with the human body. CEE and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) have been working closely at developing a concept and implementation plan for the initiative. There will be significant participation from others in the Schools of Engineering and Science.

A new program, patterned after the successful Tren Urbano, has been developed with the city of Chicago. Tren Urbano continues its successful activities.

Our six-year collaboration with CNR-Italy (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche) continues with a lot of success and meaningful exchanges. This international program has good expansion prospects.

return to top

Other Highlights

The department has signed an agreement with Pearson/Prentice Hall to develop a new textbook series in Civil and Environmental Engineering. This initiative is consistent with our goal of influencing undergraduate and graduate education throughout the nation. Its focus on electronic and new media publications is also consistent with our goals. The first books in the series are expected in a year.

After many years of wonderful service, Professor Nigel Wilson will take a sabbatical leave and has stepped down as leader of the Engineering Systems Group. Professor Cynthia Barnhart will assume that role.

Professor Rafael L. Bras stepped down in June as Department Head after nine years in the position. Professor Chiang C. Mei has taken over as Interim Department Head until the new head is installed.

Departmental Awards and Other Special Recognition

Steven Margulis, a doctoral candidate and student of Dara Entekhabi was awarded Outstanding Student Paper prize at the Annual Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (May 2001).

Hrund Andradottir, a student of Professor Heidi Nepf, received a Certificate of Merit from the University Council on Water Resources (UCOWR). Her thesis was entitled, "Littoral Wetlands and Lake Inflow Dynamics."

Departmental Awards and Other Special Recognition

Winners of the Richard Lee Russel Award for outstanding seniors entering graduate studies in Civil and Environmental Engineering were Hannah Sullivan and Heather Lukas.

Jennifer Burtz '01 received the Steinberg Prize given to an undergraduate with an excellent academic record and an interest in construction management.

Yanni Tsipis '01 won the Leo (1924) and Mary Grossman Award in recognition of high scholastic standing and interest in the field of transportation. As a double major in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), Yanni Tsipis also won the Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis/Project Award with honorable mention going to CEE double major Stefani Okasaki '01. Stefani also won a Henry Martinelli Fellowship from DUSP.

Citing his work with city governments, the InterFraternity Council (IFC) presented the Fassett Award to Russell Spieler '01, who had been the IFC Judicial Committee Chairman.

Michelle Vidal '01 received the Howe Walker Award from the Boston Society of Civil Engineers section of ASCE on May 7, 2001.

Arjun Nair '01 won the 2001 Randolph G. Wei Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Award for outstanding work at the interface of the life sciences and engineering.

Junlin Ho '01 received a scholarship from the American Consulting Engineers Council (ACEC) Massachusetts chapter. Earlier she won the Simpson Gumpertz and Heger Scholarship Award.

Sara Jo Elice '01 won the Dean A. Horn Award for excellence in marine research for her thesis, "Whither the Sediment: A History and Evaluation of the Boston Harbor Navigation Improvement Project."

Matthew Van Horne '02 was selected to receive the Dr. Pedro Grau undergraduate scholarship from the American Meteorological Society.

A panel of judges gave an honorable mention to Hrund Andradottir (G) for the 2001 Universities Council on Water Resources Dissertation Award.

Daniel Feldman '02 was one of 26 sophomores selected by the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences to be a 2001 Burchard Scholar.

The New England University Transportation Center (UTC) at MIT chose Jennifer Farver (G) as its UTC Outstanding Student of the Year for 2001.

Transportion student Anne Dunning (G) won the award for best student paper at the Summer Assembly of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) in Portland, Oregon, with "A Methodology for Analyzing Correlations of Spatial Attribute Clustering with Airline Routing and Passenger Willingness to Pay."

Franz Heukamp (G) received the Hugh Hampton Young Fellowship.

Cordelia Crockett (G) received the Clare Boothe Luce Fellowship.

The Zakhartcenko Fellowship was awarded to Shan Lan (G).

Stephan D'heedene (G) was awarded the Victor J. DeCorte Fellowship.

Graduate students J. Sam Arey, Kaeo Duarte, Gavin Gong, Karim Karam, Julie Kiang, and Megan Kogut were awarded membership to the Martin Family Society of Fellows for Sustainability.

Daniel Collins (G) was awarded a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Fellowship.

Kristin Jellison (G) was awarded an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Fellowship.

Jennifer Burtz '01, Junlin Ho '01, Matthew Van Horne '02 and Stefani Okasaki '01 were elected to Chi Epsilon.

Rafael L. Bras

More information about the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering can be found online at

return to top
Table of Contents