MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


The Strategic Plan of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) is founded on three pillars: infrastructure, environment and information/ management systems. Three interdisciplinary groups align themselves with the above problem-driven foci: Engineering Systems, Engineering and Environmental Mechanics, and Environmental Systems. Over the last six years the Department has been re-aligning its human resources to respond to the Strategic Plan. There have been five new hires in both the Engineering Systems Group and the Environmental Systems Group, and two new hires in the Engineering and Environmental Mechanics Group. A third offer is outstanding in this last group. The Department is rich in energetic, outstanding young faculty. For the first time in over a decade we appropriately cover important programs in construction management and information systems.

Our Plan also spells out a set of long-term goals and short-term action items. They form the basis of the annual budget plan. We completed all the short-term action items of this budget cycle:

Our Long Term goals include: (1) stabilizing research funding and secure fellowship support for graduate students; (2) rebuilding the faculty according to our plans; (3) increasing undergraduate enrollment; and (4) developing a unified environmentally friendly building for all of CEE. Currently CEE groups are housed in both Building 1 and Building 48. Some progress in the conceptualization and the definition of a new building has been achieved. We firmly believe in this concept.

Research budgets are stable but not growing. Fellowship funds have increased somewhat and a new generous grant from the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation has been very helpful. A lot more needs to be done. The faculty has been re-built well, as previously mentioned. Undergraduate enrollment is our biggest problem, as discussed below.


As stated above, a major effort has resulted in revitalized curricula for our two undergraduate programs. The new curricula are characterized by a design series that unifies all years of study, focusing on creativity, team work and open-ended problems. There will be plenty of hands-on experiences. All students will take a limited number of fundamental subjects, where lectures and laboratories are unified. Students can then specialize (and do part of their design requirements) in mechanics (structures, materials, geotechnical), systems engineering, and environment. Alternative customized tracks will also be possible. The idea is to provide flexibility without sacrificing depth in areas of interest.

This past year we also embarked on significant publicity efforts to reach the MIT freshmen and undergraduate population. Although the events were very successful, the ultimate outcome has been extremely disappointing. The stagnation of last year is now a definite drop in undergraduate enrollment in the Department (Table 1). Most departments at MIT, except EECS, are facing similar problems attracting students. In our case the problem is also consistent with the experience of similar departments in comparable institutions. Our undergraduates (and graduate students) are getting excellent job offers in these times of economic boom. Some graduate students received high six-figure salaries. But the reality is that normal salaries are not as competitive as those possible in computer sciences and other areas of technology growth. This relative disadvantage is compounded by what we perceive as the biased view that the Institute projects to potential applicants and incoming freshmen. This bias is reinforced by a community that is being dominated by one department and by placement services that short-change the less popular disciplines. We are working with the Admissions Office and the Placement Office on these and other issues.

Next year we will be initiating a Summer Internship Program that will guarantee a relevant summer job to all our majors at the end of their sophomore and junior years.


As previously mentioned the M.Eng. (a result of our Strategic Plan) is doing well and the new track, High Performance Structures, graduated its first class.

Overall graduate education remains healthy. The attached Tables provide enrollment data and the history of graduate degrees granted.

This year we received over 3,500 inquiries, a 13% increase over last year. This translated to 508 applications, again an increase of 11% over last year. Next September we expect a class of about 102 new graduate students, a yield of about 50%. The incoming class is 56% foreign, up from 41% last year. The applicant pool was 64% foreign, up from 61% last year. While this is consistent with MIT and our increased focus on international activities, it also raises concerns about the interest of US citizens in graduate studies and the professions we represent.


Professors Kevin Amaratunga, Charles Harvey and Martin Polz joined the faculty this year. Professor Amaratunga specializes in information technology, particularly on issues of data compression and image representation. Professor Harvey is a groundwater hydrologist, a graduate from Stanford and recently a professor at Harvard. Professor Polz is a microbiologist, a graduate from Harvard, who brings expertise in microbial ecology and microbial degradation of pollutants.

Dr. Eric Adams received the 1998 Frank E. Perkins Award for Graduate Student Advising and will be assuming directorship of the Department's Masters of Engineering Program beginning July 1998.

Professor Kevin Amaratunga has been appointed Rockwell International Career Development Professor.

Professor Cynthia Barnhart was awarded tenure.

Professor Moshe Ben-Akiva and his research team at the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program have enjoyed a successful year. Last year their traffic simulator won Discover Magazine's award for technological innovation. This year the work has been highlighted in Technology Review, Scientific American and ABC's Prime Time.

Professor Rafael Bras was awarded the 1998 Clarke Prize, presented annually for demonstrated excellence in the fields of water science and technology. Established in 1993 by the National Water Research Institute to honor one of its co-founders, Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke, the prize exemplifies the highest contributions by an individual actively engaged in the discovery, further development, improvement or understanding of water science and technology. Professor Bras was also selected to be the Horton Lecturer of the American Meteorological Society. The lecture will be given at the annual meeting next January.

During this reporting period Professor Oral Buyukozturk presented five plenary keynote lectures in major international conferences. He joined the editorial board of the Journal of Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering and is editing a special volume on advanced infrastructure technologies. Professor Buyukozturk was a co-organizer of a major international conference on corrosion held at MIT in July 1997.

Professor Ismail Chabini was one of three of our young faculty members receiving NSF's prestigious Career Awards. He co-developed a new subject: Traffic Networks: Flow Modeling and Control.

Professor Sallie Chisholm has been on sabbatical this year. She was recently re-appointed Professor of Biology at MIT.

Professor Jerry Connor successfully launched our new track in the Master of Engineering: High Performance Structures.

Professor Patricia Culligan was promoted from Assistant to Associate Professor without tenure this year. She was recently elected to the international advisory board for the European Union's network of geotechnical centrifuges for environmental research.

Professor Herbert Einstein received the Mueller Award from the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM), which represents the 42 national member societies. The Mueller Award consists of the Mueller Lecture which is given every four years at the International Congress of the ISRM. It is the highest honor of the ISRM and thus of rock mechanics worldwide. Professor Einstein has also led the efforts to implement a new civil engineering undergraduate curriculum. He is now Chair of the US National Committee on Rock Mechanics (National Research Council) and is still VP North America and First Vice President of the International Society for Rock Mechanics.

In November of 1997, Professor Elfatih Eltahir received the very prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in ceremonies at the Executive Building in Washington, D.C. This recognition carries significant research support. Professor Eltahir was promoted to Associate Professor without tenure.

Professor Dara Entekhabi led a group of the 10 leading hydrologist in an effort to develop a prospectus for the hydrologic sciences. The group assembled at MIT to draft priority science questions and observing modeling needs in the millennium. The prospectus calls for a Second International Hydrological Decade.

Professor Philip Gschwend has been on sabbatical leave.

Professor Harry Hemond was appointed Deputy Director of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences (CEHS) and Program Director-elect of the CEHS Superfund Basic Research Program at MIT.

Professor Eduardo Kausel successfully led our participation in the Mid-Atlantic Earthquake Center.

Professor Steven Lerman has served as Associate Chair of the Faculty and in June, 1998, will become the Chair-elect. He continues as Director of the MIT Center for Educational Computing Initiatives, the research arm of the Center for Advanced Educational Services. Professor Lerman is currently teaching a satellite video course that originates at MIT and is distributed by the PBS Business Channel and the National Technological University to over 200 students in North America. This course, entitled Internet Commerce, is intended for middle-level executives.

Professor Ole S. Madsen has accepted an appointment as an Adjunct Professor in the Civil Engineering Department at the National University of Singapore. He has also continued his involvement, as External Advisor, in the European Commission's multi-institutional/national project on Fluxes Across Narrow Shelves. On the home front, Professor Madsen has been active in Institute committees as member of CAP and the CUP subcommittees on the Communication Requirement and the Plus/Minus Grading System.

Professor David Marks is the Director of the new MIT Center for Environmental Initiatives. Marks maintains his role as Co-Chair of the MIT Council on Environment and is finishing up his leadership of the CEE Masters of Engineering Program.

Carl Martland received the Distinguished Transportation Researcher Award from the Transportation Research Forum in recognition of lifetime achievements in transportation research.

Professor Dennis McLaughlin, H.M. King Bhumibol Professor of Water Resource Management, met with the King of Thailand in February 1998 to discuss Thai water resource issues.

Professor Chiang C. Mei served on the International Panel for reviewing the environmental impacts of the controversial storm barrier proposed for Venice Lagoon. On July 8, 1998, the panel reported to the Italian Minister of Public Works, Dr. Paolo Costa, and endorsed the Mobile Gates Design for flood protection.

Professor John Miller received NSF's prestigious Career Award.

Professor Heidi Nepf was elected to the governing body of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography. She produced a second series of educational cable television programs on groundwater pollution, air pollution, and surface water pollution, with funding from the National Institute of Health.

Professor Feniosky Peña-Mora has successfully completed the first offering of a nine-month new subject called Distributed Laboratory for Information Technology in Large-Scale Engineering Systems, a subject used by the Master of Engineering in Information Technology as the project class. Professor Peña-Mora received membership to the Editorial Board for the ASCE Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering.

Professor Dan Roos was appointed Associate Dean of Engineering for Engineering Systems.

Professor Sarah Slaughter received the 1998 Best Paper Award from the Journal of Architectural Engineering and is a member of the Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment, National Research Council.

Professor Joseph M. Sussman won the Department's Effective Teaching Award for 1997 . He was re-elected for a three-year term to the ITS America Board of Directors, where he serves as Chairman of the ITS Awareness Panel. He continues as Chairman of the Transportation Research Board's congressionally-mandated committee to oversee the Federal Railroad Administration's research and development program, and was appointed Chairman of a TRB panel to critique the federal research and development program in transportation.

Professor Bettina Voelker won the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Professorship in Ocean Utilization.

Professor Andrew Whittle was awarded a Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize by ASCE. He will receive this award at the ASCE National Convention in Boston in October 1998.

Professor John Williams was appointed Associate Director of the Systems Design and Management Program.

Professor Nigel Wilson organized and chaired the Seventh International Workshop on Computer-Aided Scheduling in Public Transport held at MIT in August 1997 with more than 100 attendees from more than a dozen different countries.

Professor Shi-Chang Wooh also received the prestigious NSF Career Award. He has been appointed associate editor of the journal Experimental Mechanics. His work on non-destructive evaluation continues to produce patented technology.


The Department looks forward to close collaboration with School initiatives in Bio-Engineering and in Engineering Systems. The former is consistent with our long history of collaboration with the Toxicology group of MIT which is now part of the new Division of Bio-Engineering. The latter overlaps and is consistent with our thrusts in Engineering Systems. CEE faculty member Daniel Roos heads that initiative for the School.

CEE sees itself as a Hub Department and actively pursues interdisciplinary research via associated centers and other units and groups at MIT. Our international activities in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Argentina, most in collaboration with the Technology and Development program headed by CEE faculty member Fred Moavenzadeh, have suffered because of economic uncertainties but we are continuing to pursues avenues of international engagement. The new Center for Environmental Initiatives headed by CEE faculty member David Marks has provided opportunities through the Alliance for Global Sustainability and other programs. Other efforts in environmental research are found in the Center for Global Change Science, the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change, the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. CEE faculty are major leaders or actively participate in all these activities. The Center for Transportation Studies, directed by Professor Yossi Sheffi, remains a focus of our research efforts. Professor Moshe Ben-Akiva leads a major and very successful effort on intelligent transportation systems. Professor Nigel Wilson and Mr. Fred Salvucci run a major research and education program in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico which revolves around the development and building of a subway system for the city of San Juan. It is a model to be emulated nationwide.


Winners of the Richard Lee Russel Award for outstanding seniors entering graduate studies in Civil and Environmental Engineering were Deborah Cheng '98, Nora A. Humphrey '98 and Heileen Hsu '98.

Katie J. Adams '98 received the Steinberg Prize given to an undergraduate with an excellent academic record and an interest in construction management.

Steven C. Belin '99 won the Leo (1924) and Mary Grossman Award in recognition of high scholastic standing and interest in the field of transportation.

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

James P. Habyarimana '98 and Heileen Hsu '98 were elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Bridgette A. Burnell `98 was awarded second place in the S. Klein Prize for Scientific and Technical Writing for Environmental Pesticide Exposure.

Adriana T. Guzman (G) won the William L. Stewart Jr. Award presented to students who have made outstanding contributions to extracurricular activities and events during the preceding year at MIT.

Siva Dirisala (G) won an Oracle MAP Award presented by Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, giving him a position and 6 months touring Oracle to decide where in the company he wants to work.

Niranjan Krishnan (G) received The International Air Cargo Association Inaugural Annual Research Paper Competition Award for his paper entitled, Large Scale Logistics Service Design: Models, Algorithms and Applications.

Fang Lu (G) was runner-up for the Milton Pikarsky Memorial Award - 1997 C.V. Wootan Award for the best transportation master's thesis, given by the Council of University Transportation Centers.

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

Rafael L. Bras

Table 1

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Enrollment 1991-1998



Undergraduate Students

Graduate Students

Yearly Total




































Table 2

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Graduate Degrees 1991-1998



Master of Science

Civil Engineer


Yearly Total











































MIT Reports to the President 1997-98