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Environmental Engineering Curriculum

The Environmental Engineering program is structured to provide the necessary background in mathematics and basic sciences (chemistry, physics, and biology) with the intent of preparing our graduates for the 21st century. It includes a general education component consistent with the college and university requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree. The logic that underlies the sequence of courses in each of these areas is described below.

Environmental Engineering Program Objectives

The program's educational objectives are to produce graduates who will have the ability to attain high levels of technical expertise to enable their achievement in diverse environmental engineering practice and research, or in allied careers, prepare them for graduate level education, and enable them to be successful members of the professional community.

General Education

A major goal of engineering is to contribute to the welfare of society. This contribution is best made when students have a broad understanding of the Humanities and the Social Sciences (HMNSS). This understanding is derived from the study of world history; political and economic systems; the ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity of the peoples of the earth; the arts and letters of all cultures; the social and natural sciences; and technology. Although not a formal part of the required HMNSS course of study for engineering majors, this understanding is strengthened by a stringent requirement in written communication (ENGL 1A, 1B, 1C). The requirements in the Humanities consist of a minimum of three courses: one course in World History; one from Fine Arts, Literature, Philosophy, or Religious Studies; and one additional Humanities course. Breadth requirements in the Social Sciences are similarly structured: one course from either Economics or Political Science; one course from Anthropology, Psychology, or Sociology; and one additional Social Science course. In addition, the campus breadth requirement in Ethnic Studies has the option of being incorporated into the above, or standing alone as an additional course. For depth, at least two Humanities or Social Science courses must be completed at the upper-division level and, at least two courses must be from the same subject area (for example, two courses in History), with at least one of them being an upper-division course.

Mathematics and Basic Sciences

The environmental engineering curriculum is built on a foundation of courses in mathematics and the basic sciences, which are taken in the first two years at the University. The basic sciences and mathematics courses that were selected emphasize concepts and principles. Students acquire a strong grounding in Physics through PHYS 40A, 40B, and 40C. Each of these courses includes an extensive laboratory component. At the same time, students take a variety of basic sciences courses or introductory engineering courses that will provide them with the breath necessary to solve multidisciplinary problems. These include Programming (CS 10), Statics (ME 10), and Cell Biology (BIO 5A).

The environmental engineering curriculum is also based on solid grounds of chemistry. General chemistry education starts with the CHEM 1A, 1B, and 1C series which include laboratories. The students then acquire theoretical and laboratory experience in organic chemistry (CHEM 8A, 8B) which are the same courses taken by chemistry majors.

During the first two years, students take 5 courses in mathematics that cover multivariable differential and integral calculus. These courses, MATH 9A, 9B, 9C, and 10A and 10B, are followed by a course in ordinary differential equations, MATH 46. The basic mathematics knowledge will be later complemented with engineering mathematics and statistics in ENGR 118.

Engineering Sciences

Most of the courses in engineering sciences are taken after the student has acquired the necessary foundation in mathematics and the basic sciences. Several courses help students to become proficient in computer programming and the use of computer software. The computer knowledge acquired in CEE 10 and CS 10 (Introduction to Computer Science) is reinforced in ENGR 118 (Engineering Modeling and Analysis), where students formulate computer models for engineering systems. Most courses taught in the junior and the senior year incorporate computer-based problems and projects.

Engineering topics in the sophomore year (or junior year for transfer students) introduce students to the fundamentals of environmental engineering. Our curriculum incorporates solid foundations in transport phenomena, thermodynamics and breadth and depth in unit operations, air and water quality engineering. The environmental engineering curriculum emphasizes principles; however, each course trains the students to carry the concepts forward towards creative applications. In the fall of the sophomore or junior year, students learn basic mass and energy balances in ENVE 171 (Introduction to Environmental Engineering). The curriculum then focuses on Thermodynamics (ENGR 100, ENVE/CHE 130), Transport Phenomena (CHE 114 Fluid Dynamics, CHE 120 Mass Transfer, CHE 116 Heat Transfer (optional for the water option)), water quality engineering (ENVE 142 and 146) and Fundamentals of Air Pollution Engineering (ENVE 133). In the fall quarter of the junior year, students take ENGR 118, which teaches engineering numerical methods: formulation of engineering models and their application through the numerical solution of the governing equations.

Advanced engineering topics taken by seniors include applications of transport phenomena and thermodynamics in Unit Operations and Processes in Environmental Engineering (ENVE 120), Fate and Transport of Environmental Contaminants (ENVE 135), and Solid Waste Management (ENVE 144). In addition, the curriculum allows the student to mold his or her program of professional specialty studies by allowing each student to choose from a number of technical electives. Examples of these electives include Catalysis (CHE 102), Biological Unit Processes (ENVE 121), Technology of Air Pollution Control (ENVE 134), Hazardous Waste Management (ENVE 145), Chemistry of the Clean and Polluted Atmosphere (ENSC 135), Bioremediation (ENSC 155), Green Engineering (CEE 132), and Analytical Methods for Chemical and Environmental Engineers (CEE 125).

In the senior year, CEE 158, Professional Development for Engineers, exposes students to professional ethics, risk management and environmental health and safety, regulatory issues. One of the course objectives is to prepare students for transitioning to a successful career. The importance of lifelong learning and professional registration is emphasized.

As outlined in the next section, engineering design is emphasized in each engineering course. Many of the above courses include a design project. Theoretical concepts are reinforced in laboratories.

Laboratory Experience

The broad objectives of all laboratory classes are to reinforce concepts learned in lectures; provide hands-on experience in collecting data and operating engineering systems; challenge students in planning and conducting experiments; provide opportunities to work in a team; and practice and improve technical writing and oral skills. The laboratory courses are based on the idea that students are in the best position to appreciate engineering experiments only when they have familiarity with the underlying theoretical principles. Thus, the first engineering laboratory course, ENVE 160A (Chemical and Environmental Engineering Laboratory), is offered in the spring quarter of the junior year. This course is designed to train students in basic measurement techniques, and their application to fluid mechanics and mass transfer systems. Students perform seven out of the ten available lab exercises on a rotating basis. ENVE 160B and 160C work on a similar principle. ENVE 160A is followed by ENVE 160B (Environmental Engineering Laboratory), which offered in the fall of the senior year and ENVE 160C, offered in the winter of the senior year. ENVE 160B focuses on kinetics, reactor design, and air pollution (air quality monitoring, chemical reactivity studies, and vehicle emission testing). Students further practice physical measurements, experimental design, critical analysis of results, and preparation of engineering reports. Experimental design, critical analysis of results, and preparation of engineering reports are emphasized. When applicable, students are asked to use their experimental data to evaluate emission standards, environment impact and environmental regulations. ENVE 160C deals with laboratory exercises in water quality engineering and unit processes. Students experiment with coagulation/flocculation, ion exchange, water quality analyses and assessments on real life samples. Students are required to use their experimental data for scale-up purposes or for an application in engineering design.

For a majority of students, the senior design project (ENVE 175A and 175B) offers another opportunity to perform laboratory work. In many cases, the design project requires them either to verify an assumption, to determine the property of complex mixture, or to construct a model system or a prototype for a proof of concept. The Department and the faculty have been very supportive in terms of funding such laboratory work and the necessary resources have been made available. The process usually starts with the students analyzing their needs for laboratory work. They will then go through a decision making process for the selection of the materials, for the determination of the best experimental design, and for the development of the experimental protocol. Usually some device, equipment, or a pilot plant/reactor will be constructed. All the steps challenge the creativity of the students and stimulate their analytical skills. This is usually a very enjoyable process for the students, which contributes greatly to their overall education experience.

Further laboratory experience is often acquired by our students while conducting research with our faculty, either extracurricular activity (summer internship, or part-time research assistantship during the academic year) or for course credit through CHE 190 Special Studies. This provide one more opportunity to acquire advanced laboratory skills in emerging research areas.


Most ENVE courses, including laboratory courses, incorporate design, which addresses real-world problems whose solution requires creativity and consideration of alternatives to achieve stated objectives. Most students are introduced to the concept of design in their junior year through individual design projects in which students are asked to design a system or a component that satisfies specified constraints. Examples of courses that have a specific design project include, but are not limited to, Fluid Mechanics (CHE 114), Heat Transfer (ENGR 116), Engineering Modeling and Analysis (ENGR 118), Unit Operation and Processes in Environmental Engineering (ENVE 120), Water Quality Systems Design (ENVE 146). Specific design projects are based on material covered in the course. The design usually includes the following components: a) converting the design problem into quantifiable statements, b) formulating the equations that govern the design, c) developing assumptions necessary for solving the problem, and collecting the necessary information from vendors, books, publications, etc., d) selecting a method for solving the design problem and solving the design problem (analytically, numerically, sometimes iteratively), e) critically reviewing the design and optimizing the design including ethical concerns and operation and maintenance considerations, and f) writing a summary report, and in selected cases presenting results in front of the class. These individual design projects prepare the students for the capstone design project.

The culmination of the students’ design experience is the two-quarter capstone design course, ENVE 175A and 175B, in which students draw upon various aspects of their previous engineering science and design knowledge to address a meaningful design problem. Students learn to define the objectives (in a global context), explore the possible options, plan and conduct experiments if needed, formulate preliminary solutions, and evaluate the proposed alternatives with respect to economics, feasibility, societal, health and safety impacts, and sustainability. This approach may require a number of iterations before a final comparative solution is achieved. Senior design projects are always team projects (usually three students). Chemical and environmental engineering students are encouraged to form mixed groups to promote diversity and multidisciplinary approaches. ENVE 175A and 175B is run in a very professional manner. Each team maintains a chronological log of all project work (to demonstrate the evolution of their design), submit timesheets and bimonthly reports consisting of 10-minute oral presentations (similar to an internal review in a consulting firm) and a 1-3 page technical memo. Bimonthly oral presentations as well as an end-of-first-quarter team oral presentation (15-20 min) are critiqued to provide feedback for developing effective communication skills. The first quarter (ENVE 175A) focuses on project (concept) analysis, preliminary evaluation (economical and technical), data and literature collection, preliminary process design and evaluation, and becoming functional in simulation software packages such as PROII and SuperPro for modeling of an entire treatment plant. The first quarter also includes risk analysis, occupational health and safety of treatment systems, environmental and ethical concerns, sustainability concepts and operation and maintenance considerations. The second quarter (ENVE 175B) of the capstone design course focuses on the detailed engineering design of the process (equipment sizing and specification, etc.), comprehensive profitability evaluation and process optimization, in addition to ethics issues in the profession. In some cases, students build a prototype of their design concepts and prove the concept by laboratory experiments and obtain the kinetics of a treatment system required for scaling up to a full-scale system using simulation software to model steady state processes. Students also learn to use other simulators such as DYNSIM, which provide transient responses related to startup, modifications, or shut down of their environmental treatment systems. Students are provided with the skills for conducting group meetings, and brainstorming in an ethical and professional manner. Monitoring and assessment of ethical and professional conduct are done with written and confidential self-group assessments, which are provided to the instructor and done twice each quarter. This provides students with a means to learn to work productively in teams by addressing professional and personality issues that may arise throughout the capstone design course (much like conflicts which may arise in a real world setting). The course concludes with a formal oral presentation (30-40 min), which is evaluated by the faculty and a comprehensive written technical report.