Delivering industry-relevant education in Civil and Environmental Engineering
Department Head and Hamershlag University Professor Dave Dzombak with students

Traditional approaches to education, such as teacher-centered learning and standardised testing, is no longer seen as the best way to prepare students for careers.

University students are increasingly being offered an educational experience that not only provides a breadth of technical knowledge, but also allows them to apply theory to practice.

By mirroring real working environments such as collaborative projects and problem-solving in the classroom, as well as learning through interdisciplinary research, students become better prepared for the workforce.

At the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, students are prepared for leading-edge careers in the industry through the myriad ways they’re fostering skills development, instilling an innovation mindset, and delivering industry-relevant curricula.

A feature that sets Carnegie Mellon apart is the flexible curriculum offered, enabling students to tailor their education to their interests and career goals.

Twenty-four-year old graduate student Naitik Chawla, an international student from India, is working towards a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

He said, “I am interested in structural engineering and am in the Mechanics, Materials, and Computing focus area.  The flexible coursework allows me to take any course from any department, helping me tailor my own curriculum to meet my career goals.

“I’m currently taking mechanical engineering courses to boost my technical skills, allowing me to learn something new and that compliments my coursework in CEE.”

Tailormade programmes in Civil and Environmental Engineering

In the dynamic, booming industry of Civil and Environmental Engineering, there’s a need for employees who can create innovative, sustainable solutions to protect  the environment and develop infrastructure that improves quality of life for people and communities.

The graduate programme at the department offers coursework in industry-relevant areas such as traffic engineering, water quality, energy, climate change, air quality, smart infrastructure, sensing systems, building information modeling, and more.

Research is focused on areas that address 21st century challenges so students are well-versed on industry trends and happenings, such as sustainable, intelligent infrastructure systems, water and air quality science and engineering, resilient engineering materials, and environmentally sustainable engineering practices.

Flexible programmes also allow students to delve deeper or focus on their area of interest, while helping students gain practical learning opportunities.

“When I was looking at internships, the flexibility of CEE’s programme made it easier for me to land an internship since I had a background in a number of complimentary areas,” explains Chawla.

Another 24-year-old student from India, Aradhana Gahlaut, an environmentally-focused young woman whose career interests centre on adapting infrastructure to climate change, is in her third and last semester of her Master’s programme. She also found that the interdisciplinary and flexible nature of the programmes helped her land a great internship.

Aradhana Gahlaut presenting her Summer Research Project

She said, “My career goals deviate from traditional civil and environmental engineering and the CEE programme gave me the freedom to build a curriculum that supported my interests.

“Cross-listed data-focused courses from other departments complement the niche subject courses offered within the department and allowed me to tailor my coursework according to my interdisciplinary career interests and focus on skills that were directly related to the positions I was aiming for.”

Vibrant and supportive student community

International students thrive in the welcoming and vibrant community that celebrates diversity and supports those from all walks of life.

Gahlaut said, “Carnegie Mellon is exceptionally diverse, enabling a truly international experience. The inclusive atmosphere at the university and particularly within the CEE department succeeds in making students of all nationalities feel welcome and at home and provides frequent opportunities for interaction.”

They also benefit from studying in beautiful Pittsburgh, which has some of the most affordable costs of living in the United States and has been ranked as one of the nation’s “most livable cities.”

When asked what he loves most about studying in Pittsburgh, Chawla said, “Carnegie Mellon University, people, and sometimes weather too.

“One of the best universities I could have asked for, best people to study and hang out with and living in a city with many colleges.

“Free bus travel and entry to museums and a lot of other places – what more do we need? Now that I have lived in Pittsburgh for more than a year, I see why Pittsburgh is one of the most livable cities in the US.”

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is also a supportive and collaborative community. It hosts a number of events every semester to build the sense of community and foster interactions and networking opportunities among students.

Chawla said, “Having career fairs regularly, info sessions, the American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter, and lunch gatherings definitely helps in career networking and instilling career skills, eventually helping you make good career choices.”

Professor Amit Acharya with graduate student

World-class faculty

“Let’s just say when I accepted admission to CMU it was because of one reason: the faculty,” said Chawla.

Along with a supportive community, the approachable and experienced faculty members are a major factor that upholds the Department’s reputation.

“Faculty and staff are the best I have ever come across, and I studied in one of the best colleges in India,” said Chawla.

“The faculty here are world-renowned and extremely knowledgeable. They are generous with their time and readily accessible to help outside of classes. They help you understand concepts, no matter how much time it may take. Being the best in the business, they have the best advice and suggestions to help shape your career the way you want to.”

Echoing this, Gaulaut said, “The department’s faculty and staff are what make the programme a resounding success. The faculty have been incredibly helpful with advice and mentorship to help students navigate grad school and develop further career plans.

“The staff are ever-available to assist with academic and professional questions and are very responsive. The career advisors at the Career and Professional Development Centre are an invaluable resource for students looking for professional opportunities and have played an important role in helping many students land jobs and internships.”

With its supportive environment coupled with flexible and industry-relevant curricula, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University provides the ideal platform for students to launch their careers and prepare to change the world.

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