Carnegie Mellon University

CEE Social Justice & Engineering E-Series

Please join us for a special series examining the connection of civil and environmental engineering and issues centering on social justice and equity.

Friday, February 19


Jerry Wang
Assistant Professor

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Mechanics, Molasses, and Civility: Understanding the US Industrial Alcohol Company Explosion of 1919 through the Lenses of Xenophobia, Social Justice, and Hydrodynamics

On January 15, 1919, a storage tank in Boston filled with several million gallons of molasses burst, sending a current of molasses coursing through the North End neighborhood and beyond. In the aftermath, over 20 lives were lost, and the total damage — to property, civil infrastructure, and the environment — easily exceeded $100 million in 2021 dollars.

In this talk, we briefly recount the events of that fateful day before analyzing specific details in this historical narrative through the lenses of fluid mechanics, structural engineering, computational science and engineering, environmental engineering, and — critically — social-justice-centered engineering. Although the molasses flood itself is most naturally studied using (perhaps surprisingly high-Reynolds-number) hydrodynamics, this tragedy (and the government’s subsequent slow response) was fueled by a mixture of failures in regulatory oversight, environmental racism, and anti-immigrant sentiment, all of which underscore the critical importance of incorporating DEI principles in engineering practice.

Throughout this talk, we emphasize that it takes the full range of a CMU Civil and Environmental Engineer’s training in order to understand this disaster in its complete context.

Friday, March 12


Destenie Nock
Assistant Professor

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The Energy Table: Who Didn’t Get a Seat

When thinking about energy justice and social equity is is important to recognize who is not at the table. In this talk we will cover energy justice and the implications of excluding certain groups from the energy transition discussion.

Friday, April 23


Costa Samaras
Associate Professor

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Equity and Justice in Climate Adaptation

In this talk, we will have an overview of equity and justice in climate adaptation resilience strategies. We will examine case studies and tools in the U.S. and around the world. We will have a robust discussion about the path forward and the responsibilities of engineers in infrastructure planning, design, and construction.