Carnegie Mellon University
November 30, 2015

New CEE Concentration Prepares Students to Lead in Climate Change Adaptation

New CEE Concentration Prepares Students to Lead in Climate Change Adaptation

CERCA is an interdisciplinary research center committed to developing novel methods and tools that will enhance resiliency to increased threats, maximize benefits, and inform local, regional and national infrastructure decisions for climate change adaptation. CERCA is an interdisciplinary research center committed to developing novel methods and tools that will enhance resiliency to increased threats, maximize benefits, and inform local, regional and national infrastructure decisions for climate change adaptation.

Projections about climate change say that global sea levels will rise by about one to four feet or more before the end of the century, severe weather could occur more frequently, and humans will live — and build —under more extreme climate conditions.

Already, climate change is altering the ways we think about designing and maintaining infrastructure, and how we develop new technologies to account for those changes. Infrastructure will need to be stronger and more adaptable to account for unexpected and harsher conditions.

In light of these projections, Carnegie Mellon’s CEE department is now at the forefront of a rapidly evolving push to build resilient infrastructure such as roadways, power plants, and water systems with a new MS concentration, Climate Change Adaptation for Infrastructure.

Carnegie Mellon is among the first universities to offer a course of study that prepares students to account for climate trends in their engineering work upon graduation. The program, part of a rich offering of concentrations within the department, teaches students to engineer buildings and other infrastructure to account for the effects that climate change can have on them. The concentration also helps them to think about the ways in which those structures are operated and maintained.

Students learn through an interdisciplinary approach how projected climate changes will affect engineering designs, how data can inform energy and infrastructure management, how uncertainty about future conditions can be addressed in design, and how engineered and natural systems can be molded so that they are adaptable to climate change. They also learn to mitigate costs and risks for new structures while improving upon existing designs, and study how people will interact with new infrastructure as the global climate changes.

“We believe that the successful engineers of the future will be comfortable designing for resiliency under climate uncertainty”, says Costa Samaras, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation (CERCA).

Students are examining changing conditions  that warrant adaptation of infrastructure, including fluctuating temperatures, precipitation, and wind that deviate from historical  long-term trends. They are also studying the effects of extreme weather events and how various climate conditions can have a domino-like effect on other conditions that must be considered.

Students currently pursuing the concentration are working on projects such as adapting how water supplies and stormwater are managed in cities, looking into the likelihood that extreme weather events will affect future infrastructure, and deciding how to design and operate buildings for particular  regions.

Students within the concentration have the opportunity to take recommended courses such as Urban Systems Modeling, Infrastructure Management, Climate Change Science and Adaptation, International Climate Adaptation and Infrastructure Innovation, and Climate Change Adaptation for Infrastructure. They can also take a variety of additional, crosscutting courses to complement their primary coursework, including classes like Civil Systems Investment Planning and Pricing, Sustainable Buildings, Smart Cities: Growth and Intelligent Transportation, Sensing and Data Mining for Smart Structures and Systems, and others. The flexible program allows students to tailor their coursework to their individual interests and career goals.

“Our unique masters concentration in Climate Change Adaptation for Infrastructure will enable our students to become leaders in planning and designing resilient infrastructure”, said Dave Dzombak, Hamerschlag University Professor and Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

With its new Climate Change Adaptation for Infrastructure concentration, Carnegie Mellon is preparing students to not only engineer infrastructure for the present, but for what the future will bring as well.