big engineering solving problems

It’s about people and their lives, everywhere. We challenge the status quo with our research and educational programs, advance the frontiers of knowledge, expand the limit of the possible, and innovate. Using science and engineering, the people in CEE solve some of our time’s toughest challenges through the creation of systems with large-scale tangible impact at the nexus of environment, infrastructure and people.

We develop and use pioneering approaches that range from basic scientific principles to complex engineering design, at scales from the nano to the global.

The positioning of CEE is defined by a set of strategic challenge areas (addressing major societal challenges) and academic fields of interest. The academic fields of interest reflect the intellectual disciplines of our faculty, their academic background, and teaching interests (and is reflected in their contributions to our academic programs for undergraduate and graduate studies;).The academic fields of interests define how CEE faculty and students contribute to the strategic challenge areas. The strategic challenge areas reflect a set of five broad areas that are research priorities for CEE:

  1. Ecological Systems
  2. Resources and Sustainability
  3. Structures and Design
  4. Urban Systems
  5. Global Systems

The department operates two laboratories – the Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering (Building 48), and the Pierce Laboratory for Infrastructure Science and Engineering (Building 1).

Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory

The Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering has a long history of highly respected water and environmental research. From its inception as a hydrodynamics laboratory in the 1950s, the lab has evolved into a multidisciplinary research center focused primarily on natural waters and the environment.


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

Parsons Laboratory Leadership:
Prof. Phillip Gschwend

Pierce Laboratory

Located on memorial drive and abutting the great court of MIT, this building 1 laboratory has served the MIT community and the world at large providing education and research in fields giving birth to many of today’s engineering fields.  One of the oldest buildings on campus referred to as the “main group” Pierce enjoys a beautiful view of the Charles River while maintaining a historical and prestigious façade that is MIT.


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)

Pierce Laboratory Leadership:
Prof. Ruben Juanes