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Engineering for a changing world

and for changing the world

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is conducting innovative, transformative research with the power to address society’s greatest challenges and preparing students to be leaders with the knowledge and vision to meet them.

Using detailed land analysis, CEE Associate Professor Ximing Cai (shown here with graduate student Xiao Zhang) has found that biofuel crops cultivated on the world’s available, marginal land could produce up to half of society’s current fuel consumption—without affecting food crops or pastureland and watered only by rainfall, not irrigation.

The nexus of water, energy, and the environment Energy and water are at the heart of our economy and our way of life. Energy production requires a reliable, abundant and predictable source of water. At the same time, the energy required for the treatment and delivery of water accounts for as much as 80 percent of its cost. While the interrelationship of water and energy is critical, there are also potentially devastating environmental impacts at all stages of energy production and water development. CEE faculty members are doing groundbreaking work in this area, such as developing sophisticated computer models that provide critical information about global water availability, biofuel production, and the effects of climate change. In many cases, their work has extended beyond the lab as they offer their expertise to decision-makers in developing countries, a valuable perspective


that they share with their students.

In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. infrastructure systems a grade of D and estimated that $2.2 trillion is needed to repair, maintain or upgrade the systems that support

Infrastructure renewal Renewal of the infrastructure is critical for a

economic progress and societal safety.

stable and prosperous future. The challenges are colossal. Crumbling infrastructure has a direct impact on our personal and economic health, and the nation’s infrastructure crisis is endangering our future prosperity. The CEE community of researchers and practitioners is ideally suited to address these challenges. We view the infrastructure as a live and interacting system-of-systems, which presents an efficient framework for design, construction, operation and maintenance. At Illinois, CEE researchers are innovating in all of these areas—working to extend the lifecycle of pavements, optimizing transportation networks, improving the design of water treatment facilities, developing breakthrough technologies for structural health testing and monitoring, and much more. Sustainability is a key focus, ensuring that the innovations of today will lead to longer-lasting infrastructure

A wireless structural health monitoring system developed by a multi-disciplinary team at the University of Illinois, including CEE Professor Billie F. Spencer’s research group, provides an effective, inexpensive way to monitor structures continuously and alert officials to potential problems before they lead to disasters. The system is currently deployed on the Jindo bridge in South Korea.



Managing risk to society Natural and malicious disasters around the world have persistently revealed the lack of a holistic approach towards the four components of disaster management: assessment, mitigation, response and recovery. It is critically important to build aspects of risk management into all investments and to draw comprehensive plans for

The annual losses from natural disasters are about $50 billion-$60 billion, with approximately 80,000 people killed and millions made homeless on a yearly basis, according to the World Bank and the United Nations.

The Mid-America Earthquake Center pioneered analytical modeling of the impact of earthquakes on the central U.S. Recognizing the interdependence of physical and natural systems, researchers integrated engineering and the physical sciences with economics and the social sciences to comprehensively quantify the effects and help vulnerable communities assess their risk.


assessing and mitigating risk, where necessary. Civil and environmental engineers understand both the quantitative and the qualitative sides, and are uniquely suited to act as integrators of the physical, natural and social sciences towards understanding and managing risk.

Civil and environmental systems Effective, sustainable solutions to our world’s complex problems require a systems approach that integrates traditional civil and environmental engineering subdisciplines, as well as the physical, natural and social sciences. Through



CEE researchers address the technical aspects of civil and environmental systems within the context of relevant social, economic, political, and cultural issues. Increasingly, CEE faculty are integrating into their courses real-world engineering design projects that require students to work within this systems context.

Students in Professor Benito Mariñas’ environmental lab course learn laboratory methods through real-world design projects in Mexico and Africa. Professor Barbara Minsker’s environmental systems class includes a trip to China that gives students a first-hand look at sustainability challenges within a different cultural context.

Be the change

Training a generation of engineers to address global challenges requires global interdisciplinary research and education partnerships involving relevant disciplines, not just from engineering and the natural sciences but also from the social sciences.

Partner with CEE at Illinois to address these critical challenges. Endowed gifts support faculty, students, and academic programs in perpetuity, as the principal of the fund is never used. As named funds, they are legacies to your generosity or to whomever you wish to honor. Gifts can be given outright, or made over time. In addition to cash, securities, and real estate, you can support CEE as part of your overall financial, tax, and estate planning with deferred gifts such as bequests, charitable trusts and annuities, pooled income funds, retained life estates, retirement accounts, and life insurance. We have planned giving advisers who can work with you at no cost to arrange options most suitable to you.

—Professor Benito Mariñas

There are many ways to give: Fund a Chair $2,000,000 A named chair allows the holder to conduct innovative research and explore novel teaching opportunities. It is a high honor for distinguished professors and an incomparable tool with which to attract and retain scholars of brilliance. Fund a Professorship $500,000 Endowed professorships allow CEE to continue to enhance its intellectual community by helping accomplished scholars in their pursuit of knowledge and in their education of engineers and academics of the future. Fund a Fellowship $300,000 The recruitment of top graduate students allows for a robust, top-tier research program. Fellowships help to provide a pipeline of academic excellence for the next generation of faculty members and practitioners. While CEE at Illinois has rich research offerings to entice students, we must also compete against the financial incentives offered by other institutions. Fund a Faculty Scholar $250,000 The promise of young faculty members is nurtured at the outset of their careers with faculty scholar awards. They are given the freedom to refine their expertise in the classroom, and to push the limits of their research. Fund a Scholarship $50,000 Need- and merit-based scholarships enrich the CEE program by helping to attract and reward students with diverse talents and experiences. With escalating tuition costs, scholarships can make a world-class education possible for those who may have only dreamed of coming to Illinois.


For more information, please contact: John Kelley Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations (217) 333-5120


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering College of Engineering University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory, MC-250 205 N. Mathews Ave. Urbana, Illinois 61801 217-333-8038 / FAX: 217-333-9464

Engineering for a Changing World  

A brochure explaining the research and instruction thrusts of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Ill...

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