MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


It has been a very busy and productive year for Civil and Environmental Engineering. The Department carried out the third revision of its 1993 Strategic Plan. In an evolution of previous plans, three strategic thrusts have been defined.

The Strategic Plan defines ten Long Term Goals and ten short term Action Items to guide us over the next few years. Past Action Items have been largely accomplished.

The Department is gearing up for a New Millennium Colloquium on the Future of Civil and Environmental Engineering to be held March 19—21, 2000. Plans are well advanced for what promises to be a major national and international event. On March 22, 2000 there will be an Alumni/ae Reunion to celebrate our 135th year as well as the 50th year of the Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory. Again, plans are well advanced.

As part of the Reunion festivities we plan to announce the Donald and Martha Harleman Professorship. The resource development effort is going very well and we do not expect difficulties in achieving our $2 million dollar goal.

Faculty development continues to be one of our most important activities. Professor Franz Ulm joined our ranks. His areas of interest are cellular and cementitious materials, their modeling and prediction of their behavior. Four of our faculty were promoted to Associate Professors: Feniosky Peña-Mora, Heidi Nepf, Shi-Chang Wooh, and John Miller. In an extraordinary show of strength six of our junior faculty received the prestigious NSF CAREER Award for faculty development: John Miller, Feniosky Peña-Mora, Shi-Chang Wooh, Charles Harvey, Patricia Culligan, and Ismail Chabini. The great majority of our junior faculty has been so honored in the past few years.


This past year we began the transition to a new Civil Engineering curriculum. At the same time we have also modified and begun implementation of a new Environmental Engineering Curriculum. The goals of the modifications are to: provide flexibility; increase hands-on experience; emphasize design and synthesis through a series of coherent subjects culminating in a major design project; rigor, by requiring depth in an area; focus on problem-based learning; and integrate information technology throughout. This has been a major effort involving the development of some dozen subjects.

Undergraduate enrollment is a source of concern. The numbers of students going into Civil and Environmental Engineering has gone down nationwide, particularly in top ranked private universities. At MIT the pool of incoming freshmen is increasingly choosing Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the expense of practically everything else except Management.

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 also exploring new concepts for Institute-wide offerings in the area of Information Technology.

Besides quality education we seek to offer personalized attention to our undergraduates. We seek to be the friendliest, most open Department and to promote access of faculty by students. One of our new initiatives along these lines is a very successful summer internship program initiated this past year. Any sophomore or junior who wants it is guaranteed a relevant job over the summer. We have secured the participation of dozens of firms and placed 30 students this past year; in locations as varied as Venice and Boston.

Our Strategic Plan supports the idea of the Master 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 MEng. program, if their career grade point average exceeds a threshold.


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 248 graduate students. The very successful Master of Engineering program graduated its fourth class of 33 students. The graduates are in very high demand and receive well paid multiple offers. Next year the program will have close to 50 students, very near its projected enrollment objectives.

The success of the Master of Engineering and the growth of the master program in general has put pressure on the traditional doctoral offerings, which we consider the crown jewel of our degrees. We are in the process of evaluating the proper balance between the various graduate programs but have nevertheless decided to increase the promotion of the doctoral offerings, with particular attention given to the US citizen who increasingly opts for attractive income opportunities rather than continue doctoral studies. We feel that this is a short sighted and dangerous trend for the nation.

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. Forty-five fellowships were granted this year to incoming graduate students. Of all our graduate students, 37 were supported by fellowships, 153 by Research Assistantships, 40 by Teaching Assistantships and 41 were self supported or receive support from sources beyond our control.

This years admission cycle went very well. We received a total of 3204 inquiries, compared to 3534 last year. These translated to 487 applicant (511 last year). The proportion of US Citizens applicants remains at about 35%, or 169 applicants. We would like to increase this proportion. Fifty five percent of applicants were offered admission and a total of 133 individuals have accepted the offer, to make up one of our largest incoming classes. Our biggest competitors, based on surveys of declined offers, are Stanford and Berkeley that together wooed 33 individuals we had also admitted.


Dr. Eric Adams assumed directorship of the Department's MEng. program. Along with former Professor Keith Stolzenbach, he edited a book entitled Contaminated Sediments in Boston Harbor.

Professor Kevin Amaratunga has been appointed the Rockwell International Career Development Professor. His research uses wavelet theory to develop hierarchical models for engineering analysis and to develop data compression techniques.

Professors Kevin Amaratunga and John Williams are now the official holders of US Patent 5,852,681. The patent is for their method and apparatus for eliminating artifacts in data processing and compression systems.

Professor Cynthia Barnhart has been named co-director of the Operations Research Center, along with Professor James Orlin from the Sloan School. She has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. A member of the Engineering Systems Group, she is a specialist in the development of decision support systems for the transportation industry.

Professor Moshe Ben-Akiva was awarded a new grant from the U.S. Department of Education for an innovative international student exchange program. Interest in the MIT ITS program continues to grow, as evidenced by the frequent publicity surrounding MIT's MIcroscopic Traffic SIMulator Laboratory (MITSIMLab), which received exposure in Technology Review and on the television programs American Scientific Frontiers and 20/20. Professor Ben-Akiva was elected to the position of Editor-In-Chief of Transport Policy, the journal of the World Conference on Transport Research Society.

Professor Bras was chosen as the Robert E. Horton Lecturer for 1999 for the American Meteorological Society. The award is in recognition of his work in space-time characterization of precipitation, and for other fields of interest to both hydrologists and meteorologists. Professor Bras has also assumed the Chairmanship of the Earth Systems Sciences and Applications Advisory Committee of NASA and membership in the NASA Advisory Council.

Professor Oral Buyukozturk is one of the three members of an international panel to evaluate the civil engineering program of the University of San Paulo, Brazil. He delivered the keynote address on the title subject of the International Conference on Assessment and Rehabilitation of Structures, held in Budapest on April 1998.

New NSF CAREER Awards have gone to Professors Ismail Chabini, John Miller, Shi-Chang Wooh, Charles Harvey, Feniosky Peña-Mora, and Patricia Culligan.

Professor Ismail Chabini has been appointed as Associate Editor of the newly created journal, IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems. He also developed a new subject, 1.225, which is part of the new core program of the MST. Professor Chabini also served on an NSF Panel for the NSF KDI Initiative.

Professor Patricia Culligan was presented with the Arthur C. Smith Award for her meaningful contributions, participation in and devotion to undergraduate student life at MIT.

The John Dalton Medal of the European Geophysical Society for 1999 has been awarded to Professor Peter Eagleson for "outstanding contributions to theoretical hydrology and tireless promotion of hydrology as an earth system science."

At the MIT Awards convocation Professor Herbert Einstein received the Bose Award for excellence in teaching.

The Council of the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM), which represents the 42 national member societies of ISRM, voted to give Professor Herbert Einstein the Mueller Award. This award is the highest honor of the ISRM and thus of rock mechanics worldwide.

Completing a quarter century of service to MIT, Professor Herbert Einstein, Dr. Carl Martland and Administrative Officer Patricia Dixon were honored at a ceremony in April.

Professor Elfatih A.B. Eltahir started two new projects (with funding from NSF and NASA) looking at biosphere-atmosphere interactions in the tropics. The results of his research was presented in several scientific meetings in the US, Canada, Senegal and Italy. His research program received significant attention from scientific and public media including coverage by Associated Press, Science Magazine, and Discovery Channel.

Professor Lynn Gelhar is serving on the NRC/NAS Panel on Conceptual Models of Flow and Transport in the Fractured Vadose Zone. Professor Gelhar is chairing an expert panel which is reviewing the groundwater modeling activities directed at assessing the effects of underground nuclear weapons testing in the Frenchman Flat area of the U.S. Department of Energy's Nevada Test Site. He has been selected as a recipient of the 1999 Distinguished Service Citation of the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin.

Professor Charles Harvey published an analysis of a major hydrologic field experiment, the Macro Dispersion Experiment, has begun new experimental studies on Cape Cod using natural isotopes, and laboratory experiments with an artificial "invisible" soil that is made transparent by matching the optical properties of the solid to water.

The citation for the 1999 Karl Terzaghi Award honors Professor Charles Ladd for "decades of innovative research dealing with the strength properties of soft clays and consultation on projects involving structures placed on such soils." The award, which is the ASCE's highest recognition for geotechnical engineering and is given every other year, will be presented at the annual ASCE convention in Charlotte, NC in October. Previous winners from the CEE Department include Professors T. William Lambe in 1975 and Robert Whitman in 1987.

Professor Steven Lerman was elected the next Chair of the MIT Faculty, beginning in June 1999 and running for two years. He has been reappointed for another five years to the Class of 1922 Chair.

Once again, Parsons Laboratory Professors Ole Madsen and Heidi Nepf received accolades for Effective Teaching Award at the annual CEE awards night dinner in September. Andrew Walsh was named best TA, while Weslynne Ashton ‘99 and Charlie Helliwell were also recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Department

Professor Ole Madsen was appointed Adjunct Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the National University of Singapore where he offered a short course on Coastal Sediment Transport in January and again in June at Coastal Sediments ‘99 Conference.

Under the brilliant strategic guidance of senior research associate Carl Martland, the CEE Department campaigned for and won the 1999 Big Screw award sponsored by Alpha Phi Omega. "It's strange that after working hard at MIT for nearly 35 years, I first come to Institute prominence for screwing around. Naturally, I had no chance to win by running a negative campaign, as I was up against some heavy hitters, including the dining service, Course 2 design subjects, and [MIT president] Chuck Vest, whose housing decisions have not exactly made him a favorite with the undergraduates. Therefore, I decided to wage a positive campaign, with a slogan, "Big buildings require Big screws!", which I amplified through the development of the course and associated lab on "Screwing: A Civil Action."

Professor Dennis McLaughlin initiated a new project concerned with the sustainable development of local water supplies for irrigated agriculture in Thailand. This project is of particular interest to the King of Thailand who is concerned with improving the welfare and food security of subsistence farmers. Professor McLaughlin holds the H.M. King Bhumibol Professorship.

Professor Fred Moavenzadeh, the George Macomber Professor of Construction Engineering and Management, was named director of the Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development (CTPID). The Center is an association of ten research and two academic programs which has pioneered several programs involving university/industry/government relationships.

Professor Heidi Nepf received the Junior Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching, given by MIT to one junior faculty member each year. She was also elected to the governing board of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography.

CDI Software was recently announced as the winner in the 1998 MIT $1K competition in the software category. CDI (Collaborative Distributed Integrated) is a venture for creating a collaborative software platform to use in distributed design in the construction, automotive, and aerospace industries. It was created in part by the CEE MEng. Information Technology Group under the supervision of Professor Feniosky Peña-Mora. The team currently consists of graduate students from MIT CEE as well as students from CICESE, Mexico, their counterparts in the IT MEng. project.

Professor Frank Perkins was the 1999 recipient of the Ralph W. Horne Award given by the Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers in recognition of unpaid public service. He also received the same award in 1982.

CEE Professor Daniel Roos became the first head of the Engineering Systems Division (ESD), a newly formed division within the School of Engineering. He is also associate dean for engineering systems and the Japan Steel Industry Professor of Engineering.

Recently Professor Sarah Slaughter became a new member of the National Research Council Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment, and also joined the Editorial Advisory Board for Building Research and Information at the International Journal of Research, Development, Demonstration and Innovation. She is also a team leader for the new Innovation Systems in Construction Task Group, in the Conseil International du Batiment pour la Recherche, L'Etude et la Documentation (CIB).

In recognition of "the tremendous contribution made by you and your colleagues for superior coordination and cooperation in traffic mitigation for the Central Artery/Tunnel project," Professor Joseph Sussman received an award for Operations Achievement at the Move Massachusetts 2000's annual awards dinner. He also taught Engineering System Design (1.041), a new undergraduate subject focusing on the design of "CLIOS"-Complex, Large-Scale, Integrated, Open Systems, using Tren Urbano, a new public transportation system in San Juan, Puerto Rico as a class-wide project.

Professor Franz-Josef Ulm joined MIT in January 1999. He was awarded the Gilbert Winslow Career Development Chair in July 1999, and received one of the inaugural nuclear energy research initiative grants (NERI) by the Department of Energy for research on monitoring the durability performance of concrete in nuclear waste repositories.

Professor Daniele Veneziano revised Course 1.010 (undergraduate probability and statistics) and was successful in publishing controversial papers on scaling theory in important journals.

Professor Andrew Whittle ‘87 (Sc.D.) received ASCE's Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize. The citation honors his research on the development of generalized soil models and their application for solving geotechnical problems relating to the interpretation of in situ penetration tests and the design of driven pile foundation and braced excavations in clay.

Professor Nigel Wilson's major activity continues to be Tren Urbano. This project is a joint educational and research program with the University of Puerto Rico funded through the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority focusing on the planning, design, construction and management of a new urban rail system in the San Juan metropolitan area.

Professor Shi-Chang Wooh was appointed an associate editor of Experimental Mechanics. He also became a member of the Research Council and University Program Committee of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing. He offered an invited lecture entitled "Potential use of phased arrays for concrete and composite materials," at the Sixth International Conference on Composites Engineering (ICCE/6).


Civil and Environmental Engineering are committed to research based education and to the creation of new knowledge. Our activities are varied and encompassing. Following are just a few examples.

Dr. Adams is a key leader of a planned international field experiment on the sequestration of carbon dioxide to control global warming. Via the MIT-Ford collaboration, Prof. Amaratunga is involved on developing the tools for long-distance control of automotive experiments to facilitate the collaboration of manufacturers in this global industry. He also holds a patent, being licensed by MIT, on wavelet based tools for image compression and solution of large numerical problems. The MIT Microscopic Traffic Simulator Laboratory (MITSIM) developed by Prof. Ben Akiva and colleagues has been the subject of attention by the press and popular science media. Prof. Bras' work on flood forecasting was the subject of a Boston Globe report and other public science media. Prof. Chisholm continues her work, and warnings, on the idea of fertilizing the oceans as a method to increase carbon sequestration. Prof. Connor's textbook on Motion Based Design has been having a significant impact on the profession and academia. Prof. Culligan continues her work on Magnetic Resonance Imaging as a tool in the study of contaminant transport in porous media. Prof. Eltahir's work and hypotheses on the origins and persistence of droughts in West Africa has received national and international press and attention. Prof. Harvey has launched a multidisciplinary study of the arsenic contamination of well in Bangladesh, possibly one of the worst ecological and human health disasters of this century. Prof. Hemond's work on the occurrence and bio-mediated transformations of arsenic in natural systems complements well Prof. Harvey's initiatives. Prof. Miller is about to publish his book on methods of finance and delivery of public projects. Prof. Peña-Mora's work on Information technology enabled collaborative engineering and education is receiving has been the subject of several awards for innovation and entrepreneurship. Prof. Veneziano has published key papers on the mathematical representation of scaling phenomena, particularly mathematical constructs called multi-fractals. Prof. Williams' COMMAND system for the management of WEB-based courses is being used throughout MIT and elsewhere. The system supports over 90 courses in 13 departments and programs. Over 1500 students use it on a daily basis Students Abel Sanchez and Hai Ning have been providing this service to the MIT community, without any downtime, throughout the year. Prof. Wilson and Principal Research Associate Fred Salvucci continue to run a most successful model of education and research collaboration between MIT and the University of Puerto Rico, within the context of a new subway system being built in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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 Marnie A. Bell, Radika Bhaskar, Beth Manoogian, and Joy Su.

Ericka Moreno ‘99 received the Steinberg Prize given to an undergraduate with an excellent academic record and an interest in construction management.

Sam Park ‘99 won the Leo (1924) and Mary Grossman Award in recognition of high scholastic standing and interest in the field of transportation.

Jon Bottom (G) was awarded the Outstanding Student of the Year 1999 by the New England University Transportation Center at MIT.

The Master thesis of Sridevi Ganugapati was selected as one of the three finalists for the best master thesis award of the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC).

Three proposals by CEE members placed well in the most recent MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Contest. Daniel Brooks ‘98 (1-E) was a finalist for his New England Abalone Farm proposal. Semi-finalists were Adriana Guzman (G) Construction for her Ensol Corp. proposal, and Coach Wei and Lawrence Azar (G) Structures for PASS Technology.

The Hydrology Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) chose Karen Plaut as one of the 10 winners of the Outstanding Student Paper Award for the spring 1998 meeting. Her winning paper was "Hillslope Shape Controls on Soil Moisture and Hydrologic Variability."

Ph.D. student Scott Ramming ‘94 (MST) has been presented with a George Krambles Transit Scholarship for 1998, based on his paper, "A Bus-Based Proposal for Short-Term Circumferential Transit." The Krambles Award is given yearly to encourage students to develop professional capability for future careers in the transit industry.

One of the two recipients of 1998—99 UPS doctoral fellowships is Joan Walker of the Center for Transportation Studies. Her winning proposal was, "Behavior Realism in Land Use Modeling."

Teaching assistant Andrew Walsh (G) received a Graduate Student Council Teaching Award for excellence in teaching, particularly with respect to the teaching of and interaction with graduate students.

Laurent Levy (G) was awarded a Robert Guenassia Prize and Catalina Marulanda (G) was awarded membership to the Martin Society of Graduate Fellows for Sustainability.

Michael J. Garvin (G) was selected to be a Martin Society Fellow this Spring. He is a doctoral candidate in the Construction Management Program.

Steven Niemczyk (G) was awarded an IBM Fellowship for AY 1998—99.

Kevin Settlemyre won the Marvin Goody Award.

Jason Lee won the George Krambles Transit Foundation Scholarship.

Ricardo de Rojas is the 1999 winner of the New England chapter of the International Concrete Repair Institute scholarship award.

Tracy Zafian was an ENO Transportation Foundation Fellow in 1999 and participated in a week-long intensive session with other fellows from around the country meeting key transportation decision- and policy-makers in Washington, DC.

Nicole Gasparini (G), Steven Margulis (G), and Karen Plaut Berger (G) were awarded NASA fellowships.

Nathan Burnham, Samuel Park, and Christina Sherman were elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Nathan Burnham, Amber Crabbe, Samuel Park and Christina Sherman were elected to Tau Beta Pi.

Marie Bell, Radika Bhaskar, Nathan Burnham, Amber Crabbe, Jessica Fox, Nathaniel Grier, Beth Manoogian, Anne McLeod and Yasmin Rehmanjee were elected to Chi Epsilon.

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 1998-99