About MIT Civil and Environmental Engineering

The department’s intellectual focus is discovery and innovation to understand the world, invent and lead with creative design to sustain life and society in ever-changing environments. Our identity is the ability to educate and innovate science-based foundations with tangible engineering impact for societal problems that span across environment and infrastructure. The impact of our education and research is to:

  • Lead our society into a new era with a solid understanding of the environment,
  • Understand how the actions we take affect the natural world, and
  • Define how we can further humanity’s progress by understanding, building and operating the infrastructures and systems that are crucial to sustainably support our growing society and civilization.

Emphasizing the use of quantitative approaches, CEE features two vibrant centers of gravity: environment (Parsons Laboratory), what exists as natural systems; and infrastructure (Pierce Laboratory), what is created by human activity.

Our faculty and staff are dedicated to educating our students such that they are best equipped to serve the nation and the world as professionals, scholars, academic leaders and entrepreneurs. Our research and educational programs challenge the status quo, advance the frontiers of knowledge and expand the limit of the possible. We develop and apply pioneering approaches that range from basic scientific principles to complex engineering design, at scales from the nano to the global.

We are focused on five strategic challenge areas:

  1. Ecological Systems (fundamental understanding of life processes in a changing environment, in water and on land, with the aim of improving environmental and public health)
  2. Resources (covering all the ingredients necessary for sustainability of society, including air, water, energy, food, materials, and their transport)
  3. Structures and Design (all physical and cyber physical structures that support our society)
  4. Urban Systems (emerging frontiers of human settlements, in particular smarter cities, resilient coastal areas, as well as urban transportation networks)
  5. Global Systems (climate global logistics and transportation systems)

Infrastructure: Pierce Laboratory

Our efforts in the area of infrastructure focus on innovative science and engineering approaches that advance the design of infrastructure materials, transportation systems, cities and energy resources. Emphasizing collaborations across MIT, we seek to address fundamental issues that are critical to society and the environment, and to serve as the center of excellence in the design, manufacturing and operation of infrastructure. A priority is identifying and applying radically new approaches to the design, manufacturing and characterization of infrastructure materials. Areas of particular interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Structural Engineering & Design
  • Transportation
  • Network Analysis & Design (with applications to natural and man-made systems; e.g. cities, transportation, logistics, environment, smart infrastructure)
  • Sustainable Materials (e.g. construction, infrastructure, energy)
  • Multiscale Geomechanics (in the context of energy, resources, including critical zone & subsurface processes)

Environment: Parsons Laboratory

Our long-term objective in the area of environment is to understand and engineer human adaptation to a changing environment. Human activities are affecting the global environment at rates that are likely to increase dramatically. In light of global effects such as rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and changing weather patterns, the specific local impacts of global environmental change on water, agriculture and food, water and air quality, natural hazards and public health remain largely unknown. A priority is to understand what local changes must be made due to global changes, how marine and terrestrial ecosystems respond to global changes, and how local ecosystem services are affected and utilized. Areas of particular interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Coastal Engineering & Fluid Dynamics
    Hydrology, Ecology and Plant-Water Relations
    Environmental Microbiology
  • Environmental Chemistry (air, water, land)
  • Terrestrial Plant Ecology & Plant Physiology
  • Benign Design & Manufacturing

Educational Programs

Our undergraduate curriculum offers students in CEE the opportunity to blend their educational foundation, and to prepare them for the challenges in sustainability, through many disciplinary studies, built around a solid and rigorous foundation of mathematics, statistics and data, computation, and hands-on laboratories.

Our graduate programs provide limitless possibilities at the frontier of knowledge and innovation, and are central to our research and educational enterprise.