Strategic Vision

In our perfect future, members of society are educated and healthy, live in concert with a thriving natural environment, and have access to their needs via resilient infrastructure. Technology is employed to improve and protect human and environmental health, providing economic opportunities for all, while unintended consequences are understood and minimized. This future is a place of harmony and balance based on the principles of sustainability and resiliency. We, the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at PSU, believe we have the ability to advance the scientific knowledge to realize this future. Our vision is to be known for employing the most advanced experimental and computational technologies in a sensible way to produce outstanding research, provide holistic education, and implement the created knowledge to serve society and the environment broadly.

As civil and environmental engineers, we research, design, monitor, maintain, and repair the natural and built environment in ways that: 1) support development of healthy and safe environments and 2) create infrastructure systems that provide access to places, resources, and information. We use technologies to serve society and promote the health, comfort, connectivity and happiness of people. We help protect and sustain the environment. Our mission is to provide the tools, information, and talented engineers to build a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable future that supports and enriches daily life with efficient use of resources.

We aim to develop sensible solutions that are low-imprint, high impact. These solutions should minimize energy and resource use, disturbance of communities and natural systems, and human distraction. They are simple, inspired by nature, and beautiful. By asking the right questions, applying fundamental principles, and using feedback from many stakeholders, we strive to create such solutions. We understand that in a rapidly changing world, it is critical that we can distinguish between useful information and noise, between what is essential and unimportant, and how to distill trustworthy information.

Our culture supports a transdisciplinary research environment with a diverse set of collaborators. We work with experts within and outside our department to understand the bigger picture, define problems together, and combine our knowledge and tools to find appropriate solutions. We pose these questions not alone but together with others.

In support of our vision and to promote our mission, the department will be renowned for scientifically sound, socially and environmentally conscious research and education in three areas:

  • Prevention, planning, and management of extraordinary events;
  • Evaluation, development, and deployment of technologies that promote a better society; and
  • Creation and maintenance of healthy environments

All of these focal areas have elements that overlap and build on our current expertise, reinforcing our ability to make impactful contributions that support the advancement of society. Our location in the living laboratory of Portland, OR and the Pacific Northwest is advantageous as both are national leaders in these emerging areas and we have strong relationships with public agencies and other potential partners. More details about these research areas are provided below.

Prevention, planning, and management of extraordinary events

We strive to minimize the risks and uncertainties from natural and man-made hazards such as extreme events and environmental degradation, including those brought on by global climate change and regional perturbations of climate change. In CEE, we aim to research and create new knowledge about how and why extraordinary events occur, how systems adapt and change, and what mitigations are possible and appropriate. By creating highly skilled engineers and developing alternative materials, nature-inspired solutions, and resilient infrastructure, we can help communities plan, adapt, and even thrive in the face of systemic perturbations. Our research and education goals are not merely aimed at minimizing the loss of life, but restoring vitality to human and natural systems as a consequence. As we live in and operate from the Pacific Northwest, this research focus area is grounded in the reality of our unique set of regional assets and risks, which imposes a sense of urgency that propels us forward.

Evaluation, development, and deployment of technologies that promote a better society

Automated and connected cyber-physical systems have the potential to shape society in a number of ways: improve public health, safety, and security; foster environmental understanding and stewardship; improve efficiency and productivity; and provide data and analysis to support better decision making. However, these disruptive forces also pose societal risks and ethical hazards. In CEE we believe we can propose a vision in which we embrace cyber-physical systems in targeted ways that promote a healthy and informed society. To this end, we will work with other disciplines to develop appropriate technologies, test them in our living laboratory, train engineers, and strive to diminish unintended consequences.

Creation and maintenance of healthy environments

The origins of civil and environmental engineering are rooted in promoting and protecting human and environmental health. As a discipline, we are well positioned to tackle our current challenges by learning from nature, working with communities, finding elegant solutions, and training future engineers to utilize these approaches. Our department works to monitor changes in our natural and built environment and understand the implications of those changes for humans and ecosystems. We work to find creative solutions to prevent and mitigate the degradation of our natural resources and to continually improve the surroundings we design. At a time when our planet is in distress, we pursue research to support actions that will mitigate harm to natural ecosystems and create environments that support human wellbeing.