Carnegie Mellon University

Transitioning to a Sustainable Future: there is an imperative at Carnegie Mellon to do research that is problem-driven, collaborative and interdisciplinary. 

These 20 research centers work in two distinct areas; 1) Urban Infrastructure and Sustainable Cities and 2) Energy Transition Strategies and the Environment.

The Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University is focused on:

  • Using and delivering the energy we already have far more efficiently
  • Expanding the mix of energy sources in a way that is clean, reliable, affordable and sustainable
  • Creating innovations in energy technologies, regulations and policies

CEINT's vision is to elucidate the relationship between the vast array of nanomaterials and properties to their environmental and human health risks. Graduate students and faculty from seven departments within the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Mellon College of Science study the occurrences, transport, transformations, fate, and toxicity of engineered nanomaterials in the environment, aiming to understand the potential environmental exposure, biological effects, and ecological consequences. 

How much will global temperatures rise in the next 50 years? What about sea level? Will there be more tropical storms and habitat loss? At the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making, researchers are studying the limits in our understanding of climate change and its impacts. They are developing and demonstrating methods to characterize these irreducible uncertainties and creating decision strategies and tools that incorporate such uncertainties. The center's research focuses on the real-world problems confronted by insurance managers who face financial risks from climate change and low-carbon technologies; forest, fisheries and ecosystem managers in the Pacific Northwest and Canada; Arctic-region decision makers trying to balance cultural lifestyles with modern economic development; and electric utility managers facing large capital-investment decisions in the face of climate risks. 


The main goals of the Center for Risk Perception and Communication are 1) to bring together researchers interested in studying risk perception and risk communication; 2) to establish a common framework within which these researchers can communicate and collaborate, and 3) to bring our collective expertise to a diverse set of risk-related projects. A common approach shared by much of the research done at this center is the mental models methodology, which facilitates the integration of relevant information into a coherent "expert" model, and provides a robust procedure for the measurement of lay perceptions and the development and evaluation of communications.

The Center for Ethics and Policy is an interdisciplinary program dedicated to applying ethics and political philosophy in real world settings.  Its areas of intellectual activity now include political philosophy and social choice theory, moral theory and methodology as well as the theoretical foundations of Bio-ethics and Research ethics.

The Center for Sensed Critical Infrastructure Research (CenSCIR) brings together a multi-disciplinary team of experts committed to creating a fast, reliable monitoring system to collect and process data about a myriad of complex network systems critical to both the nation's security and daily commerce. These monitoring systems may be used for a broad range of critical infrastructure applications, including monitoring systems for decaying bridges, oil and gas pipelines, unstable electric power grids, leading water distribution systems and campus security.

The first center in the nation to focus on the building industry, the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics (CBPD) is engaged in ground breaking work that investigates the impact of advanced technology on the physical, environmental, and social settings in office buildings and identifies international developments in new high-performance commercial building design.

Now more than ever, the field of business ethics is growing more complex. As the world shrinks, its nations and peoples remain diverse. Corporate responsibility has assumed international proportions and, in the process, a new level of complexity. Business executives make global decisions that affect a variety of cultural and economic systems. Carnegie Mellon researchers believe the next major advance in business ethics will be a truly international approach that takes cultural differences into account. The Center for International Corporate Responsibility aims to put Carnegie Mellon in the forefront of this development, while maintaining the curriculum developed around domestic business ethics.

Members of CAPS are recognized internationally as leaders in the study of air quality and atmospheric chemistry. Members research the behavior of particulate matter in the atmosphere, including emissions, formation, transformation and deposition of particles as well as their climatological and health effects. The Center's goal is to substantially advance the state of knowledge across this spectrum, and to provide both policy-relevant research and to participate directly and actively in the evolution of environmental policy related to particulate matter.

CAPS is conducting a major air quality study in and around the City of Pittsburgh. The study offers a detailed characterization and monitoring of the particulate matter and will quantify the impact of the various sources (transportation, power plants, natural, etc.) of pollution. 

The Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions is a new collaborative research center at Carnegie Mellon University created through a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Issues like shale gas development, electric car subsidies, and power plants of the future raise air and climate questions that require integrated thinking. The new Center will bring together experts to arrive at the best decisions.

Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center at Carnegie Mellon University is a resource for local communities and small business and property owners. It serves as a vehicle to enhance the growth of brownfields remediation and redevelopment in western Pennsylvania. The Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center provides access to information and research on previous development efforts, site-specific workshops that bring together national experts and local stakeholders to strategize comprehensive development initiatives for municipalities and small business owners, and education programs for professional practitioners and academics in the field.

The electricity industry in the United States accounts for $250 billion in sales, and demand for electricity is increasing. The industry faces issues which make meeting that demand difficult. These issues include slow rates of technology adoption, a transmission system designed for an earlier era, a hybrid of regulated and deregulated jurisdictions, and incomplete markets. The problems of the electricity industry are inherently interdisciplinary, and the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center (CEIC) has merged engineering, economics, risk analysis, decision science to study these challenges. 

The Center for Iron and Steelmaking is a National Science Foundation initiated research center within the department for Materials Science and Engineering. The CISR conducts research relevant to iron and steel production. It is the largest academic research program for the steel industry in North America.

The Center for Sustainable Engineering galvanizes engineering programs into action. The center, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, is designed to help future engineers better manage increased stress on the world's limited resources. The center holds workshops to improve engineering faculty teaching, hosts a website with peer-reviewed educational materials about sustainable engineering, and conducts a nationwide survey of sustainable engineering programs and courses to benchmark the status of education in this emerging discipline. The center is composed of a collaborative research team from Carnegie Mellon University, The University of Texas at Austin, and Arizona State University.

The STUDIO is a center for experimental and interdisciplinary arts in the College of Fine Arts. Founded in 1989, the STUDIO connects artistic enterprises to academic disciplines across the campus, to the community of Pittsburgh and beyond. Work carried out over the years by the STUDIO has included projects incorporating disciplines from cell biology to robotics to neuroscience to imaging technology.

Water QUEST researchs pathogens and toxicants in urban water. The center focuses on the environmental sources, fate and treatment of contaminants in urban systems. Water QUEST also develops technology and integrated modeling for application of cyberinfrastructure in environmental systems research and decision-making. These efforts are intended to cultivate a citizenry ready for the challenges of managing urban water systems.

The Remaking Cities Institute (RCI) is an urban design research center in the School of Architecture that was created to promote an improved quality of life through place-making and carefully planned economic and community redevelopment. The ability to capture and evaluate the conditions of neighborhoods and regions as well as their ability to deliver the basic tenets of a shared quality of life, and to envision futures that regenerate neighborhoods and regions, is a primary goal of the RCI.

The Living Environments Lab is focused on critical, disruptive, and creative research and prototyping of our future technologies with an emphasis on their impact on both human life (HCI, interface design, usability, experience, empowerment, emotion, etc) and environmental life (sustainability, environmental awareness, alternative energies, new materials and methods for making and re-making).

The Design Decisions Laboratory develops theories and tools to understand and assist decision-making in design and product development. The group is interested in the preferences and economics that drive design tradeoff decisions as well as the impact of those decisions on public and private stakeholders. Current thrust areas of research include design optimization of complex systems, modeling and coordination of stakeholder preferences, and environmental policy.

The Green Design Institute is a major interdisciplinary research effort to make an impact on environmental quality through green design. The central idea of the institute is to form partnerships with companies, government agencies and foundations to develop pioneering design, management, manufacturing, and regulatory processes that can improve environmental quality and product quality while enhancing economic development. Our research partners will have access to policy and management tools for environmentally conscious manufacturing and product and process design, as well as opportunities to explore comprehensive solutions to problems such as hazardous emissions, use of toxic materials and inefficient energy usage. 

The Institute for Green Science is a research, education, and development center creating a holistic approach to sustainability science. The center approaches three problem areas in which green chemists can make major contributions to sustainability. The Institute studies how to make the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy economically feasible, considers how chemical feed stocks may be obtained from renewable sources to reduce our dependence upon fossilized carbon, and finally The Institute focuses on pollution reduction.