Civil and Environmental Engineering


T. El-Korchi, Professor and Department Head; Ph.D., University of New Hampshire; glass fiber reinforced cement composites, tensile testing techniques, materials durability. 

L. D. Albano, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; performance-based design of buildings, design and behavior of building structures in fire conditions, integration of design and construction.

J. Bergendahl, Associate Professor; Ph.D., University of Connecticut; industrial and domestic wastewater treatment, particulate processes in the environment, chemical oxidation of contaminants.

F. L. Hart, Professor; Ph.D., University of Connecticut; water quality changes in distribution systems, tracer analysis of reactors, water quality changes in wet pipe fire sprinklers.

P. Jayachandran, Associate Professor; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin; tall buildings, design.

M. Kearns, Adjunct Instructor; M.S., Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Y. Kim, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., Texas A&M University; control theory and applications, modeling of complex systems, fuzzy logic theory and applications

R. B. Mallick, Professor and White Chair; Ph.D., Auburn University; nondestructive testing, highway design, pavement material characterization.

P. P. Mathisen, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; water resources and environmental fluid dynamics, contaminant fate and transport in groundwater and surface water, exchanges across the sediment-water interface.

B. J. O’Rourke, Adjunct Instructor; J.D., Boston College, M.S., Cornell University

J. C. O’Shaughnessy, Professor; Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University; sustainability and green engineering, industrial waste/ pollution prevention; hazardous waste destruction.

R. Pietroforte, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; construction management, construction economics, architectural engineering.

J. D. Plummer, Associate Professor and Schweber Professorship in Environmental Engineering; Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst; surface water quality, microbial source tracking, alternative disinfection strategies.

G. F. Salazar, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; integration of design and construction, models and information technology, cooperative agreements.

Mingjiang Tao, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University; soil mechanics, geotechnical-pavement engineering, geo-material characterization and modeling.

T. J. Vadney, Adjunct Instructor; M.B.A., Southern New Hampshire University

Programs of Study

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) offers graduate programs leading to the degrees of master of science, master of engineering and doctor of philosophy. The department also offers graduate and advanced certificate programs. Full- and part-time study is available.

Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy

The graduate programs in civil engineering and environmental engineering are arranged to meet the interests and objectives of the individual student. Through consultation with an advisor and appropriate selection from the courses listed in this catalog, independent graduate study and concentrated effort in a research or project activity, a well-planned program may be achieved. Students may take acceptable courses in other departments or those approved for graduate credit. The complete program must be approved by the student’s advisor and the Graduate Program Coordinator.

The faculty have a broad range of teaching and research interests. Through courses, projects and research, students gain excellent preparation for rewarding careers in many sectors of engineering including consulting, industry, government and education.

Graduate programs may be developed in the following areas:

Structural Engineering

Courses from the structural offerings, combined with appropriate mathematics, mechanics and other courses, provide opportunities to pursue programs ranging from theoretical mechanics and analysis to structural design and materials research. There are ample opportunities for research and project work in mechanics, structures and construction utilizing campus facilities and in cooperation with area consulting and contracting firms. The integration of design and construction into a cohesive master builder plan of studies is available.

The structural engineering research topics in the recent past at WPI are as follows – three-dimensional dynamic response of tall buildings to sto chastic winds; the inelastic dynamic response of tall buildings to earthquakes; response of braced, framed-tube and outrigger- braced tall buildings to wind; dynamic response of tall buildings with base-isolation to seismic loads; eccentrically braced tall buildings to resist earthquakes; approximate methods of analysis and preliminary design of tall buildings; knowledge-based systems and neural networks for tall building design; evaluation of structural performance during fire conditions; structural design agents for building design; finite element methods for nonlinear analysis; finite element analysis of shell structures for dynamic and instability analysis; and box girder bridges.

Environmental Engineering

The environmental engineering program is designed to meet the needs of engineers and scientists in the environmental field. Coursework provides a strong foundation in both the theoretical and practical aspects of the environmental engineering discipline, while project and research activities allow for in-depth investigation of current and emerging topics. Courses are offered in the broad areas of water quality and waste treatment. Topics covered in classes include: hydraulics and hydrology; physical, chemical and biological treatment systems for water, wastewater, hazardous waste and industrial waste; contaminant transport, transformation and modeling; water quality and water resources.

Current research interests in the environmental engineering program span a wide range of areas. These areas include microbial contamination of source waters, colloid and surface chemistry, physiochemical treatment processes, disinfection, pollution prevention for industries, treatment of hazardous and industrial wastes, biological wastewater treatment, environmental fluid dynamics and coastal processes, contaminant fate and transport in groundwater and surface water, exchanges between surface and subsurface waters, computer simulations of distribution systems, and land use development and controls. Research facilities include the Environmental Laboratory and several computing laboratories. Additional opportunities are provided through collaborative research projects with nearby Alden Research Laboratory, an independent hydraulics research laboratory with large-scale experimental facilities.

Geotechnical Engineering

Course offerings in soil mechanics, geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering may be combined with structural engineering and engineering mechanics courses, as well as other appropriate university offerings.

Engineering and Construction

Designed to assist the development of professionals knowledgeable in the design/ construction engineering processes, labor and legal relations, and the organization and use of capital. The program has been developed for those students interested in the development and construction of large-scale facilities. The program includes four required courses: CE 580, CE 584, CE 585 and FIN 500. (FIN 500 can be substituted by an equivalent 3-credit-hour course approved by department.) It must also include any two of the following courses: CE 581, CE 582, CE 583 and CE 586. The remaining courses include a balanced choice from other civil engineering and management courses as approved by the advisor. It is possible to integrate a program in design and construction to develop a cohesive master builder plan of studies. Active areas of research include integration of design and construction, models and information technology, cooperative agreements, and international construction.

Highway Infrastructure

The objective of the highway infrastructure program is to provide a center for learning and education for the engineers who will design, build and maintain tomorrow’s highway infrastructure.

The highway infrastructure program is a multidisciplinary interdepartmental program designed to prepare students for careers designing, maintaining and managing highway infrastructure systems. Students gain proficiency in highway infrastructure technology in two complementary ways: projects and coursework. Projects focus on developing improved practical methods, procedures and techniques. Coursework is focused on practical aspects of infrastructure technology needed by practicing engineers.

Research in the highway infrastructure program is sponsored by a variety of private and governmental organizations including the U. S. Federal Highway Administration, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, the Massachusetts Highway Department, The Maine Department of Transportation, the Iowa Department of Transportation, the New England Transportation Consortium, the National Science Foundation and others. Some of the more active research areas being pursued in the highway infrastructure program include developing side-impact crash test and evaluation procedures, developing procedures for performing in-service performance evaluations of traffic barriers, assessing the field performance of traffic barriers, finite element analysis of crash events, structural crash-worthiness, Superpave technology, pavement smoothness and ride quality measurement, recycled asphalt materials, and implementation of innovation in transportation management and other transportation-related topics.

Interdisciplinary M.S. Program in Construction Project Management

The interdisciplinary M.S. program in construction project management combines offerings from several disciplines including civil engineering, management science, business and economics. Requirements for the degree are similar to the master of science in engineering and construction management program.

Master of Engineering

The master of engineering degree is a professional practice-oriented degree. The degree is available both for WPI undergraduate students who wish to remain at the university for an additional year to obtain both a bachelor of science and a master of engineering, as well as for students possessing a B.S. degree who wish to enroll in graduate school to seek this degree. At present, the M.E. program is offered in the following two areas of concentration:

Master Builder

The master builder program is designed for engineering and construction professionals who wish to better understand the industry’s complex decision-making environment and to accelerate their career paths as effective project team leaders.

This is a practice-oriented program that builds upon a project-based curriculum and uses a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving for the integration of planning, design, construction and facility management. It emphasizes hands-on experience with information technology and teamwork.


The environmental master of engineering program concentrates on the collection, storage, treatment and distribution of industrial and municipal water resources and on pollution prevention and the treatment and disposal of industrial and municipal wastes.

Admission Requirements

For the M.S.

A B.S. degree in civil engineering (or another acceptable engineering field) is required for admission to the M.S. program in civil engineering. Applicants are expected to have the necessary academic preparation and aptitude to succeed in a challenging graduate program. Students who do not have an ABET accredited B.S. degree may wish to enroll in the inderdisciplinary M.S. program.

For the environmental engineering program, a B.S. degree in civil, chemical or mechanical engineering is normally required. However, students with a B.S. in other engineering disciplines as well as physical and life sciences are eligible, provided they have met the undergraduate math and science requirements of the civil and environmental engineering program. A course in the area of fluid mechanics is also required. All graduates of this option will receive a master of science in environmental engineering.

For the interdisciplinary M.S. program in construction project management, students with degrees in areas such as architecture, management engineering and civil engineering technology are normally accepted to this program. Management engineering students may be required to complete up to one year of undergraduate civil engineering courses before working on the M.S.

For the M.E.

A B.S. degree in civil engineering (or another acceptable engineering field) is required for admission to the M.E. program in civil engineering.

For the Ph.D.

Ph.D. applicants must have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Applicants will be evaluated based on their academic background, professional experience, and other supporting application material. As the dissertation is a significant part of the Ph.D., applicants are encouraged, prior to submitting an application, to make contact with CEE faculty performing research in the area the applicant wishes to pursue.

Degree Requirements

For the M.S.

The completion of 30 semester hours of credit, of which 6 credits must be research or project work, is required. A non-thesis alternative consisting of 33 semester hours is also available. In addition to civil and environmental engineering courses, students also may take courses relevant to their major area from other departments. Students who do not have the appropriate undergraduate background for the graduate courses in their program may be required to supplement the 30 semester hours with additional undergraduate studies.

For the M.E.

The master of engineering degree requires the completion of an integrated program of study that is formulated with a CEE faculty advisor at the start of the course of study. The program and subsequent modifications thereof must be submitted to and approved by the CEE department head or the Graduate Program Coordinator, when they are developed or changed. The program requires the completion of 30 semester hours of credit. The following activities must be fulfilled through completion of the courses noted or by appropriate documentation by the department head or graduate program coordinator: experience with complex project management (CE 593 Advanced Project), competence in integration of computer applications and information technology (CE 585 Information Technology in the Integration of Civil Engineering), and knowledge in the area of professional business practices and ethics (CE 501 Professional Practice). The program shall also include coursework in at least two subfields of civil and environmental engineering that are related to the M.E. area of specialization.

The primary subfield will provide the student with competence required for the analysis of problems encountered in practice and the design of engineering processes, systems and facilities. Subfields are currently available in structural engineering, engineering and construction management, highway and transportation engineering, geotechnical engineering, materials engineering, geohydrology, water quality management, water resources, waste management, and impact engineering. The sub-field requirements are satisfied by completing two thematically related graduate courses that have been agreed upon by both the student and the advisor as appropriate to the program of study. In addition to the subfields noted above, other appropriate areas may be identified as long as it is clear that the courses represent advanced work and complement the program. Coursework and other academic experiences to fulfill this requirement will be defined in the integrated Plan of Study at the start of the program.

Transfer between M.S. and M.E. Program

A student may transfer from the M.E. program to the M.S. program at any time. A student may transfer from the M.S. program to the M.E. program only after an integrated program of study has been agreed upon by the student and the advisor in the area of concentration and approved by the CEE department head or the Graduate Program Coordinator.

For the Ph.D.

Doctoral students must satisfactorily complete a qualifying examination administered within the first 18 credits of admission into the Ph.D. program. The purpose of the qualifying examination is to assess the student’s ability to succeed at the Ph.D. level and also to identify strengths and weaknesses in order to plan an appropriate sequence of courses. The exam is administered by a four member committee consisting of the major advisor and three other members selected by the major advisor.

In addition to the university requirements for the Ph.D. degree, the CEE department requires students to establish a minor and to pass a comprehensive examination. Students must establish a minor outside their major area. This may be accomplished with three courses in the approved minor area. One member of the student’s dissertation committee should represent the minor area. The student’s dissertation committee has the authority to make decisions on academic matters associated with the Ph.D. program. To become a candidate for the doctorate, the student must pass a comprehensive examination administered by the student’s dissertation committee. The candidate, on completion and submission of the dissertation, must defend it to the satisfaction of the dissertation committee.

Civil and Environmental Engineering Laboratories

The department has three civil and environmental engineering laboratories (Environmental Lab, Geotechnical Lab, and Materials/Structural Lab), plus three computer laboratories located within Kaven Hall, as well as a structural mechanics impact laboratory. The CEE laboratories are used by all civil and environmental engineering students and faculty. The computer laboratories are open to all WPI students and faculty. Uses for all laboratories include formal classes, student projects, research projects and unsupervised student activities.

Structural Mechanics Impact Laboratory

The Structural Mechanics Impact Laboratory is a teaching and research laboratory. The impact laboratory is used to explore the behavior of materials and components in collisions.

The Structural Mechanics Impact Laboratory consists of the following major pieces of equipment:

  • An Instron Dynatup Model 8250 Instrumented Impact Test System,
  • A high-speed video camera system,
  • A data acquisition system, and
  • A large-mass drop tower.

Fuller Environmental Laboratory

The Fuller Laboratory is designed for state-of-the-art environmental analyses, including water and wastewater testing and treatability studies. Major equipment includes an atomic absorption spectrophotometer, total organic carbon analyzer, UV-Vis spectrophotometer, particle counter, an ion chromatograph, and two gas chromatographs. Along with ancillary equipment (such as a centrifuge, autoclave, incubators, balances, pH meters and water purification system), the laboratory is equipped for a broad range of physical, chemical and biological testing. The laboratory is shared by graduate research projects, graduate and undergraduate courses (e.g. CE 4060 Environmental Engineering Laboratory) and undergraduate projects. 

Pavement Research Laboratory

The pavement research laboratory provides support for graduate research and courses. The state of the art array of equipment includes compactor, moisture susceptibility testing equipment, loaded wheel tester and extraction and recovery equipment. The laboratory contains some of the most advanced testing equipment - most notable of these are the material testing system, the Model Mobile Load Simulator, and an array of Non Destructive Testing equipment consisting of the Portable Seismic Property Analyzer, Falling Weight Deflectometer and Ground Penetrating Radar. A major focus of the pavement engineering program is on the integration of undergraduate and graduate curriculum with research projects funded by the Maine Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, New England Transportation Consortium and National Science Foundation.

Materials/Structural Laboratory

The Materials/Structural Laboratory is set up for materials and structures testing. The laboratory is utilized for undergraduate teaching and projects, and graduate research. The laboratory is equipped for research activities including construction materials processing and testing. Materials tested in this lab include portland cement, concrete, asphalt, and fiber composites. The laboratory has several large-load mechanical testing machines.

Geo/Water Resources Laboratory

The geo-water resources laboratory is a flexible teaching and research space that provides support for research, undergraduate and graduate projects, and courses in the areas of geotechnical engineering and water resources. The laboratory provides bench-top laboratory space for completing soil and water quality analyses, a flexible area for working with larger lab configurations that cannot be placed on the bench-top, space for preparing equipment and supplies for field investigations, and a secure area for testing, developing, and storing both field and laboratory equipment. Laboratory equipment includes fully automated stress-path-control triaxial testing system, flexible wall permeameter, and other devices for determining basic soil properties, and an aquarium and variety of tanks for demonstrating and testing equipment in water. Field equipment includes flowmeters, pumps for groundwater sampling, water quality testing probes, and a variety of equipment for hydrologic monitoring and water quality testing.

Computer Laboratories

The CEE Department has a number of computer laboratories that are located in Kaven Hall and connected to WPI’s network, including two large laboratories that are available for general student use. One of these laboratories includes 28 Dell Optiplex Core 2 Due Computers, operating at 2.66 Gigahertz on Windows Vista. The other laboratory (known as the AutoCAD Lab, which is 2000 feet in area) contains 23 Dell Optiplex 745 Core 2 Duo Computers, also operating on Windows Vista. In addition, hook-up jacks to network connections for laptop computers are provided at four large group tables in the center of the room. A complete presentation system (computer projector, VCR and sound system) is housed in this facility. Primary use of this laboratory is for courses and civil engineering group project work.

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