New Course 1 program prepares students to solve today’s major challenges

April 8, 2014

The flexible undergraduate program, launching this fall, mixes rigor and depth with applications to critical areas of societal importance

Beginning fall 2014, the Department of Civil and Environmental (CEE) will offer a new Course 1 flexible undergraduate program, 1-ENG, which will give students the ability to design unique and challenging educational programs to suit their individual interests, career goals, and aspirations. 

“Visual representation of the 1-ENG program
Visual representation of the 1-ENG program. View the image in a larger size.

“Solutions to the grand challenges of the next century - the environment, sustainability, energy, cities, transportation, and others - require depth in the fundamentals, and innovative approaches to education," says  Markus Buehler, a professor and head of CEE, who announced the new program on April 8. “Our new flexible undergraduate program introduces a rigorous and creative approach to education for today’s complex world. In Course 1, students need to become leaders in creating a sustainable future.”

1-ENG lets CEE students create their own courses of study, Buehler adds, by combining foundational courses with the core subject areas of mechanics and materials, environmental engineering science, systems -  or any combination of these. Students can focus on energy, bio-inspired mechanics, systems, environmental engineering science, civil engineering, sustainable builidings and cities, transportation, or structures, architecture and design. The program emphasizes quantitative approaches, and it offers opportunities to apply coursework through hands-on laboratory and project-oriented subjects. Students have the option of taking a project-based senior capstone subject or writing a thesis. 1-ENG will be fully accredited by ABET and allows for full professional licensure of our graduates (for those interested in pursuing this path).

“The main feature of the new program is its unprecedented flexibility,"  says Professor Elfatih Eltahir, a professor and associate department head of CEE, who led the curriculum development efforts. “The program will allow students to work closely with their faculty advisors to design tracks of study that are tailored to fit each student's needs and interests. It will also create entirely new opportunities, such as giving CEE students the opportunity to use tools of big data, network theory, and statistical mechanics as they apply to civil and environmental applications.”

To support the new curriculum, the department will launch several new and updated undergraduate subjects in the 2014-15 academic year. New subjects include data analysis for analyzing real-world data sets, a computational course based on MATLAB (CEE also offers a JavaScript-based computation course), and a new field-based environmental subject. Other CEE subjects and curricula will be added in the coming semesters.

In addition to the requirements of the three core subject sets, the track-related subjects and electives, all students in 1-ENG will take five required subjects: math, computation, engineering probability and statistics, data analysis, and a capstone or thesis subject that teaches the basic skills necessary for engaging in a design project or writing a thesis. This set of subjects complements and enhances the rigorous foundations established through the General Institute Requirements taken in the freshman year. 

The new program offers traditional Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering tracks that are iden