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Beyond The Classroom

 Team photo taken after finishing casting the canoe.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences offers a number of exciting opportunities outside the classroom. These include:

  • Engineering competitions
  • Extraordinary field trips
  • Research experiences at Notre Dame
  • National and international research opportunities involving field work
  • Challenges and Innovation seminar series

These opportunities are offered by the Department and are in addition to the opportunities for study abroad through the University's International Studies Program and opportunities for service through the University's Center for Social Concerns. As a result, your undergraduate education in Civil Engineering and Earth Sciences can include not only classroom learning, but multiple opportunities to work individually or with your fellow students outside the classroom, outside the campus environment, and outside the borders of the United States!

Signature Opportunities

Our students are involved in a number of educational competitions that challenge them to apply their classroom principals through fun and challenging competitions. Each year, for example, the students participate in the ASCE concrete canoe competition in which they have to construct and then compete in a canoe whose outer shell is comprised of special concrete mixtures designed to provide strength at minimum weight. Our students also compete in the ASCE steel bridge competition whereby they are required to design, build and test a steel bridge to meet strength, weight, and stability criteria imposed by the competition sponsors. The EPA Rainworks Campus Challenge is another competition that our students have participated in with guidance from professors and University officials. Finally, our students have been very successful in such academic competitions as the Metcalf & Eddy Design Competition where they compete with other engineering programs in design of real-world solutions to problems in water supply and treatment.

Field Trips
For the past several years, the Department has sponsored extended field trips for the entire Department. The Junior Class Field Trip focuses on big infrastructure projects and brings together the multidisiplinary aspect of Civil and Environmental Engineering projects. These field trips have included inspection of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and visits to major infrastructure projects in New York and along the Eastern seaboard. There are also two Environmental Earth Sciences field trips each year that rotate between locations every other year giving students the opportunity to have four different hands-on Earth Science experiences while at Notre Dame. The fall field trip rotates between the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Appalachian Mountains, and the spring trip focuses on a number of significant geologic locations in the Southwestern United States, including recent trips to Big Bend and Death Valley and several national parks where geologic processes are on natural display.

Undergraduate Research at Notre Dame
Two-thirds of our undergraduates engage in research collaborations with faculty and graduate students in our department. These opportunities allow our undergraduates to pursue research in various aspects of biochemical processes in the environment, numerical modeling of fluid flows with environmental applications, and structural dynamics and analysis. Such research allows our students to obtain advanced, hands-on experiences at the cutting edge of science and engineering. Opportunities exist to share these research findings in campus forums through the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement and even at national and international conferences.

National and International Field Research and Service Opportunities
Undergraduate research also commonly extends into the field both in the United States and internationally. This might include, for example, field work in the southeastern coast of the U.S. looking at coastal dynamics, surveying tsunami impacts on developing countries. Undergraduate students also participate annually in a service-oriented design project called ND SEED designing, funding, and constructing footbridges for communities in the developing world lacking safe passage from their villages.

Challenges and Innovation Seminar Series
This unique seminar series brings international leaders from industry, academia, and other related fields to discuss major projects and accomplishments by engineers and geoscientists. These seminars are directed to our undergraduate students and those students who formally register for the series receive both course credit.