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Environmental Engineering and Science in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois (UI)

Many people want to protect the environment and contribute to a more sustainable society. Many college students want to study the environment to learn how it works. Environmental engineering students learn how the environment works, what to do to protect it, and how to contribute to the design of sustainable systems. The historical precursor to environmental engineering was called sanitary engineering and focused on water and wastewater treatment. As the field expanded to include air pollution control, biofuel production, environmental policy, mathematical modeling, green infrastructure (e.g., LEED buildings), and other related activities, the name was changed to reflect this expanded scope.

Environmental engineers build treatment plants that remove contaminants from industrial and human wastes, in some cases for reuse applications. They design, construct, and operate systems that purify water. They develop and implement air purification devices. They develop methods to remediate hazardous waste. They design programs to separate and recycle solid waste or to convert it to fuel. They develop mathematical models that describe the movement and behavior of contaminants in the air and water, and use those models to develop better ways of protecting the whole interconnected fabric of air, water, land, and life on the planet. They develop plans for addressing the critical issue of global climate change and develop new methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a specialty in environmental engineering, and M.S. and PhD degrees in Environmental Engineering or Environmental Science.

Students may specialize in one of several specialty areas, including air quality engineering and science, aquatic biology/ecology, environmental chemistry, environmental systems analysis, subsurface science and hazardous waste, water quality microbiology, and water quality process engineering.

The program is sufficiently flexible to accommodate a wide variety of interests and backgrounds. Cooperation with other departments and programs of the University encourages the development of a coordinated approach to the solution of complex environmental problems. Each specialty area is built on required core courses and appropriate advanced and elective courses, chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor, to meet the student’s need and graduation requirements.

A Sample of Courses at UI

These are just some of the courses our students take at the University of Illinois to further their knowledge of environmental principles and their application to environmental engineering.

CEE 330 – Environmental Engineering – In this course you’ll learn concepts like: biochemical oxygen demand, adiabatic lapse rate, coning and looping plumes. You’ll also learn fundamental techniques for cleaning wastewater and contaminated air, like: cyclone separators, electrostatic precipitators, trickling filters, and activated sludge.

CEE 430—Ecological Quality Engineering—In this course, you’ll collect fish specimens from Illinois streams and learn what stream conditions, both water quality and quantity, keep fish stocks healthy and productive. You’ll learn how to catalog fish data, and how to predict the effects on fish of proposed engineering projects.

CEE 434 – Environmental Systems, I—In this course, you’ll learn the principles of putting the pieces together to clean the whole interconnected environment at affordable cost. This course relies on mathematical modeling of large environmental systems and optimization principles to find strategies with attractive tradeoffs between those objectives.

CEE436 – Sustainable Urban Engineering   - In this course, you’ll learn about new technologies and approaches for storm water management, gray water reuse, energy conservation, and renewable energy, all in the context of building site development.

CEE 437—Water Quality Engineering—In this course, you’ll learn more details about water and wastewater treatment. You’ll learn design principles for: activated sludge units, trickling filters, settling tanks, coagulation, flocculation, filtration, and water softening and disinfection.

CEE 440 – Fate Cleanup Environ Pollutants —In this course you’ll learn about the fate of pollutants released to the environmental, and how to remediate contaminated sediments, soil, and groundwater.

CEE 446 – Air Quality Engineering—In this course, you’ll learn more details about air quality control. You’ll learn design principles for cyclone separators, electrostatic precipitators, limestone scrubbing, baghouses, and biofilm-based air purification.

CEE 445—Air Quality Modeling—In this course, you’ll learn where air pollutants go when they are emitted, what ultimately happens to them, and what problems they cause on the land and in the water. You’ll learn what a Gaussian plume model is; you’ll learn about particulate settling and acid deposition and its buffering.

Why UI?

The UI Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) is one of the top-rated programs in the nation and the University offers modest tuition rates, especially to Illinois residents. Moreover, undergraduates in the CEE department are often offered opportunities to collaborate with nationally- and internationally-known faculty on cutting-edge research. In addition to valuable experience, such research rewards students with class credit, tuition and fee waiver, a monetary stipend, or some combination of the three.


The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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