Rice University was an early innovator in introducing environmental science and engineering to its curriculum and has experimented with several options for offering environmental engineering over the years. The department of Environmental Science and Engineering (ES&E) at Rice was established in 1968 as one of the first educational and academic units in the United States devoted to the science and engineering of water as a resource. Initially, ES&E was first housed within Civil Engineering, then moved to Chemical Engineering. Finally, because of its nontraditional approach and requirements for future development, a decision made over 25 years ago separated ES&E from other engineering departments and it remained a separate department until 2001. Like other growth areas in engineering, such as bioengineering today, the small number of competing independent programs in this field has imparted considerable national visibility to ES&E and to Rice University. The ES&E department was merged with civil engineering in 2001 to form the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE).
As an independent department for over 30 years, ES&E proved to be highly successful in all facets of education. Students from across campus have access to ES&E, and instruction has been designed to enrich a diverse audience. The focus of ES&E’s undergraduate education was to augment a student’s primary field of study with course work and research experience in environmental engineering. Undergraduate programs currently offered by the Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering are included in this web site.
Similarly, CEE's graduate students pursue a diverse education that includes course work and research experiences that transcend classical departmental or school divisions. Two different programs exist within the Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, one in environmental engineering and one in structural mechanics and engineering. Our graduate students take courses offered throughout the schools of engineering, natural science, social sciences, humanities, and business. This interdisciplinary approach to graduate education is more strongly based in fundamental sciences than is generally found in traditional civil/environmental programs. Currently, graduate degrees from CEE and structural mechanics include various master’s degrees and the Doctor of Philosophy.
Research projects involve collaborative efforts with professors and students from numerous departments and institutes across campus. This freedom to pursue a truly interdisciplinary research-based education in Civil and Environmental Engineering has benefited our graduate students intellectually and professionally. As the world embraces ever more complex technological approaches, the department stands ready to meet the challenge of the future with a strong engineering base and interdisciplinary exposure for the students of the future.