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University of South Carolina: Engineering degrees that launch careers in sustainability and national resilience

Engineers, regardless of their discipline, share a common goal. That is to innovate and develop solutions, through building and design that we can integrate into our everyday lives. But in the world of engineering, the basics are no longer enough, especially in a world dealing with a climate crisis and rapid technological advancements.

Many universities are recognising sustainability and national resilience as the way forward and are making efforts to prepare curriculum according to current trends that will better prepare tomorrow’s engineers. 

The College of Engineering and Computing (CEC) at the University of South Carolina (USC) is one of them. It is actively placing sustainability at the core of its engineering programmes, namely civil and environmental engineering, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering. Students here learn to identify, formulate and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science and math. 

Juan Caicedo, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, believes sustainability, and civil and environmental engineering share a common goal of fulfilling the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations. 

“Civil and environmental engineers are the designers and builders of our infrastructure, our built environment. As such, we need to study and understand how our development affects the environment so we can fulfil our needs and enable future generations to fulfil theirs,” he shares. 

CEC graduates and researchers exemplify the kind of highly trained and creative workforce capable of creating knowledge and solutions to vital issues concerning national security and national resilience. 

The concept of resiliency means creating or adapting physical, information, and social systems to withstand traumatic or threatening circumstances. High-priority issues include securing supplies of energy, food and water; ensuring cybersecurity and protecting cyber-physical infrastructure; protecting the nation’s intellectual property and manufacturing ecosystem; and hardening critical infrastructure including transportation, the electrical grid, buildings, and coastlines.

At the CEC, Principal Investigator Hanif Chaudhry is testing an environmentally friendly solution in response to the growing need nationwide to rehabilitate federal and non-federal dams to reduce the risk of levee failure. The CEC’s Erfan Goharian and Song Wang have also  been awarded a grant to develop an image dataset of water objects from Microsoft AI for Earth. 

“We believe our collaboration with Microsoft AI for Earth will help us develop an intelligent flood detection and monitoring system,” says Goharian. “Public dissemination of the dataset will build the foundation needed for many other applications in earth and water science and their related issues around the world.”

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Engineering programmes here were designed to provide an exceptional, practice-based academic experience to budding engineers keen on sparking global change. Source: University of South Carolina

High-impact research projects lay the foundation of the graduate programmes at USC. They are also designed to provide an exceptional, practice-based academic experience to budding engineers keen on sparking global change. Such a teaching approach further prepares graduates for positions of research leadership in academia or in many industrial and government research positions. 

USC students can learn about sustainability through a module on LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), an approach used to quantify environmental sustainability. It involves analysing the environmental impacts of a system or process throughout its entire life and includes all relevant inputs and emissions to different components of the environment 

“Students learn how to use LCA to answer questions or make decisions regarding the sustainability of civil and environmental engineering systems. They are also exposed to principles of sustainability in many of the courses taught within our department,” says Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Nicole Berge.

The civil and environmental engineering programme is made for those who want to help people through creating infrastructure systems that contribute to better environmental control and remediation of both the natural and constructed environment. 

As one of the broadest engineering disciplines, the curriculum will help you build a strong foundation while giving you the flexibility to choose among five specialisations – environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering and water resources engineering. Again, with an emphasis on sustainability, students will learn to apply such a concept to research and their future careers in the field. 

“There are numerous opportunities to apply sustainability in civil and environmental engineering research and practice,” says Berge. “For example, research can be conducted to develop sustainable approaches to manage and treat wastes. Development of sustainable materials that can be used in civil engineering infrastructure is another example of how sustainability can be applied in research. In practice, applying principles of sustainability can aid material selection and choosing environmentally friendly construction methods and approaches can reduce emissions and wastes.”

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Regardless of your chosen specialisation, engineering students at the CEC are provided hands-on opportunities by working on a real-world problem in their capstone design. Source: University of South Carolina

The CEC’s chemical engineering graduate programme is ranked in the top 30 nationally by the National Research Council and ranked 14th nationally in federally funded chemical research and development by the National Science Foundation.

As a chemical engineering graduate student at the CEC, you’ll explore chemical process analysis, advanced chemical engineering thermodynamics, advanced fluid flow analysis, and advanced mass transfer. If you want to further strengthen your technical expertise or to gain additional knowledge in project management or entrepreneurship, you can select elective courses to tailor to your specific interests.

Mechanical engineering students are no different. They acquire a broad foundation of mechanical engineering knowledge, an in-depth research experience at the frontiers of mechanical engineering and skills for life-long learning and professional development. Whether you’re pursuing an MS, ME, or PhD, you can choose from these specialisation tracks: engineering mechanics, energy systems, dynamics and control, and manufacturing.

Regardless of your programme, CEC students are provided hands-on opportunities to work on a real-world problem, such as capstone projects. The university also offers career support that provides opportunities for industry exposure through co-ops and internships.

If you’re looking to further your career or dive into research and academia, the CEC also offers various certifications and graduate programmes. From aerospace engineering to engineering management and technology innovation and entrepreneurial engineering, there are ample opportunities to pursue research and fellowships with your respective departments and industries. 

Discover the role you can play in bettering society through developing sustainable engineering solutions for a rapidly changing world at the College of Engineering and Computing at the University of South Carolina.  

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