Research Overview

Research in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences focuses on multi-disciplinary problems relevant to society. Areas under study by researchers in the department include:

  • Natural and Manmade Hazards (winds, waves and currents, floods, earthquakes, blast, fire, nuclear forensics)
  • Civil Infrastructure (buildings, bridges, shelters, towers, dams, levies);
  • Fluid Flow and Transport (atmospheric, surface water, and groundwater flows)
  • The Environment (sustainable water and energy resources, water and wastewater treatment, environmental protection);
  • Energy (solar, nuclear, wind, bio)
  • Earth and Planetary Systems (geochemistry, mineralogy and petrology, hydrology, geomicrobiology, contaminants, planetary science and exploration, global climate change)

Dynamic and thriving undergraduate and graduate programs are integrated into our research enterprise. Students at all levels have opportunities to engage in research with significant practical and societal impact. Faculty, students, and staff work together to create and sustain a quality culture of learning, discovery, and creativity.

Environmental Engineering

Our group uses fundamental knowledge in engineering, math, chemistry, biology, and geology to address critical environmental challenges in the areas of sustainable water and energy resources, water and wastewater treatment, and environmental protection in both developed and developing countries.

In the past, environmental engineers were tasked mostly with designing water and wastewater treatment plants, managing solid waste, developing and overseeing regulations, monitoring air quality, and remediating contaminated soil and water areas like Superfund sites. While these problems are still relevant, our focus is now on preventing problems, and on developing new generations of graduates who understand sustainability, population growth, and food, water, and energy demands.


Environmental Fluid Dynamics

This group studies flow and transport in a diverse range of environmental systems, including the atmosphere, the oceans, lakes, streams and subsurface environments (e.g. groundwater, oil) as well as the interfaces that connect these diverse systems.

Our work focuses on understanding the fundamental processes in these systems to improve our ability to work harmoniously with nature. We seek to better design infrastructure to mitigate against natural disasters; manage and remediate air and water quality; improve our ability to forecast weather in extreme environments; and develop sustainable plans to deal with future conditions that evolve under climate change.

Our work encompasses laboratory and field scale experiments, the development of improved theories and the development and application of numerical models.

Research Interests in Environmental Fluid Dynamics

  • Hurricane environments
  • Water resources
  • Tsunamis
  • Coastal and inland inundation
  • Air-sea interaction
  • Weather prediction in mountainous environments
  • Monsoons
  • Groundwater contamination and remediation
  • Atmospheric and oceanic boundary layers
  • Small-scale turbulence and mixing processes
  • Air pollution
  • Global climate change
  • CO2 sequestration
  • Lake hydrology and associated biogeochemistry
  • Jet, wake and plume dynamics
  • Stratified and rotating flow dynamics
  • Wind-structure interaction
  • Internal and inertial waves
  • Wave-current interaction
  • Urban sustainability
  • Wind wave dynamics
  • Sediment transport
  • Indoor air quality

Faculty in Environmental Fluid Dynamics

Environmental Earth Sciences

Earth Sciences research is highly quantitative and multidisciplinary, integrating advanced laboratory, field, and modeling approaches. It focuses on the fundamental controls on environmental and geologic process, with strengths in geochemistry; mineralogy and petrology; hydrogeology; geomicrobiology; planetary science and exploration; and environmental science.

Research interests

  • The fate and transport of surface, soil, and groundwater contaminants
  • The nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear forensics
  • Planetary-scale geochemical processes
  • Supervolcanoes and large igneous provinces
  • Biogeochemical cycling of the elements
  • Natural and engineered nanoparticles
  • Global climate change
  • Geochemical signatures associated with meteorite impact structures
  • Prospecting and evaluation of lunar resources


Structural Engineering

This group focuses on wind and earthquake engineering, structural health monitoring, steel and concrete systems, risk analysis and mitigation, extreme loads, structural optimization, computational statistics, and design and optimization of kinetic structures.

Structural faculty are involved in multidisciplinary research programs that focus on multiple and often interacting hazards (wind and waves, fires and earthquakes, blast and collapse). They develop novel risk mitigation and management strategies and solutions and develop infrastructural systems that can withstand multiple hazards, for the benefit of current and future generations.

Research interests in Structural Engineering

  • Wind engineering
  • Earthquake engineering
  • Coastal engineering
  • Blast, fire, and progressive collapse
  • Natural hazard risk assessment, mitigation, and reliability
  • Steel and concrete buildings and bridges (including tall buildings and long-span bridges)
  • Dynamics of structures
  • Structural control and health monitoring
  • Cyber-enabled design and virtual organizations
  • Multiscale modeling of structures and materials
  • Advanced computational platforms/methods
  • Structural design and optimization
  • Computational solid and fluid mechanics
  • Large-scale testing of structural components and subassemblies
  • Kinetic (deployable) shelters and bridges
  • Structural art
  • Sustainable infrastructure for the developing world (Engineering for International Development)