Civil and environmental engineering at Rice became a single department in 2001 after the merger of two separate engineering programs. We address important societal problems that impact the urban and natural landscape in a variety of ways. We have focus areas in Environmental Engineering, Hydrology and Natural Disasters, Structural Engineering & Mechanics, and Urban Infrastructure & Risk. We are problem solvers, scientists, leaders and doers, passionate about changing our world for the betterment of humanity and improving the quality of life for all on our planet.
Modern day urban challenges are amazing and occur more frequently than ever before as the population of the planet explodes. Natural disasters, aging infrastructure and urban decay, and significant climate change produce very real problems for people the world over. Global issues such as water quality and sanitation, sea level rise, loss of forests and global warming, and increased rainfall and storms are very real problems. As scientists and engineers, we study these issues at the local, state, national and global scales to improve our knowledge and understanding. CEE graduates have the great opportunity to address and solve some of the most important societal problems facing the planet.
Our graduate and undergraduate academic programs are designed to give students a strong understanding of physical, chemical, biological, economic and social systems that affect engineering research and practice. Our curriculum equips students with the knowledge and skills to tackle today’s issues head-on, with an interdisciplinary approach that includes use of small teams in many of the classes. The NSF-funded NEWT Center, the SSPEED Center, and the Brine Chemistry Consortium are examples of groups pursuing important research in CEE. These research centers support faculty, staff, and students in addressing important societal problems.
Research opportunities abound in the CEE department for both undergraduate and graduate students, who work closely with faculty in a variety of settings. They perform experiments in state-of-the-art laboratories, solve important water treatment problems in developing countries, develop and implement novel computational techniques, and run models to address sea level rise and increasing risk from severe storm. Our students travel nationally and internationally to perform in situ fieldwork in order to address the most critical challenges of our time. They also present their findings at conferences both nationally and across the globe.
Our faculty rank as some of the most productive in the United States among all civil engineering and all environmental engineering Ph.D. programs, as shown by the number of publications and accolades attributed to them, as well as the amount of funding they receive. In turn, they inspire productive, happy students – some of the happiest in the nation, according to the Princeton Review.
We believe our students are the future leaders in the field, catalysts for advancing our world and solving the important problems of the day. As such, we ensure that students have opportunities to broaden their academic experience – and their skillset – through international service learning that allows students to work in diverse cultural and social situations. By keeping our class sizes small and working in small teams, we ensure the best possible experience for the student and maximum interaction with faculty.
We actively use new, interdisciplinary pedagogical approaches made possible by novel developments in technology – and then expect students to apply that education to novel solutions. Well-educated students in CEE both at Rice and across the globe are best positioned to solve the important global infrastructure and environmental issues that face all of us on the planet.
Chair and Herman Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering