Students in La Paz, Bolivia

Serving a Global Society

Civil engineering and environmental engineering are concerned with the fundamental systems of civilization – from the roads we travel to the water that flows from the tap. The built environment supports human life by improving human health and providing shelter, transportation and access to clean water. Today, these oldest of engineering disciplines are focused not only on improving the structures humans build but also on better understanding how the human-built environment affects the natural environment.

Since civil engineers and environmental engineers design structures to improve the human condition, the disciplines are an embodiment of the phrase “knowledge in service to society.”

Duke's civil and environmental engineering programs feature several distinctive research efforts by faculty members that are making global impacts, and international educational opportunities for students to engage in hands-on learning and to make a difference in the lives of others.


Investigating the Environmental Implications of Nano Technology

CEINTThe GDRI International Consortium for the Environmental Implications of Nano Technology (iCEINT) is a transatlantic scientific effort that brings together the Duke-hosted CEINT, funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with French researchers at CEREGE, funded by the French National Research Agency and European Commission.

The consortium creates a team of research laboratories, engineers and scientists from the United States and France, all working on research into the environmental, biological, and ecological impact of nanomaterials.

The director of the U.S. portion of the consortium is Mark Wiesner.

Finding Global Sanitation Solutions

Despite progress on the UN’s millennium goal to improve sanitation worldwide, 2.4 billion people are still using unimproved sanitation facilities, including the nearly one billion people who practice open defecation. The result is the spread of diarrheal germs which, according to the CDC, are the cause of 1 in 9 child deaths worldwide--the second most common cause of death among children under the age of 5.

Several research projects are underway in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to help address this issue. A neighborhood-scale fecal sludge processing system is being developed to provide human waste treatment for communities of 1,000-1,200 people. A combined toilet and processing system is being engineered to offer onsite treatment for groups of 20-50 people. Effective methods of odor control for these and many other solutions are also being investigated.

This work has been made possible through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The principal investigator is Marc Deshusses.

Studying Air Quality

A research group headed by Michael Bergin, looking at the influence of air pollution on both climate and human health, has conducted a wide range of studies on the emission, formation, deposition and impacts of particulate matter.

The Bergin group is studying the influence of particulate matter on human health with emphasis on determining the relative contributions of sources (such as biomass burning and vehicular emissions) to acute health impacts. Research studies have been conducted in pristine regions of the world (Greenland and the Himalayas), as well as hazy regions (Southeastern U.S., China and India).

The group is also involved in developing and deploying the next generation of air quality sensors to inform citizens on the quality of the air they are breathing so that they can make informed decisions to improve their air.

In April 2016, Bergin traveled with environmental engineering undergraduates to study air and water quality in Bolivia's high-altitude capital city of La Paz.

Mitigating Earthquake Hazards

Mitigating Earthquake Hazards in New ZealandHenri P. Gavin, with a team of New Zealand researchers from the University of Canterbury, GNS Science (Wellington, N.Z.) and the Canterbury District Health Board, is examining the behavior of a base-isolated structure in Christchurch via an array of seismic response instruments, detailed computational modeling, and measurements of local soil conditions.

This work is funded throught two grants from the National Science Foundation and has contributed to engineering assessments of the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence.   

International Outreach

Ghana: Kwame Nkruma University of Science and Technology

For more than 14 years, CEE faculty member Fred K. Boadu has regularly returned to the university where he gained his first degree, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, to help the physics and engineering departments develop their curriculums. Boadu helped set up the first geophysics course at the university and often returns to Ghana to teach students, with support from the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, of which he is a fellow.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program has supported 110 short-term fellowships for North American academics at higher education institutes in six African countries: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID)

Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID) is a student organization supporting cost-effective and high-impact engineering projects that improve communities in the United States and around the world.

DEID projects combine community-driven ideas with student design. The work involves a wide range of engineering disciplines and promotes a sense of international responsibility.

Previous projects have included building vocational classrooms in Uganda, construction of a suspension footbridge in Rwanda and the design of a system to remove litter from a creek a few miles from the Duke campus in Durham, N.C.

Students who participate in a DEID project can earn credit toward the department’s Certificate in Global Development Engineering.

DEID’s faculty advisor is David Schaad.

Educational Programs

Certificate in Global Development Engineering

The innovative Certificate in Global Development Engineering prepares engineers to partner with marginalized and disadvantaged people around the world to implement designed solutions to meet specific community needs.

To earn the certificate, students undergo training in technical subjects as well as culture and language, ethics, public policy and economics. In addition to course work, those who pursue the certificate get real-world experience, implementing a designed solution either in the United States or abroad, as well as during a project-focused capstone course.

The certificate program director is David Schaad.