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What is Civil and Environmental Engineering?

Take a moment to think about the biggest challenges that humanity is likely to face in the course of your lifetime.  What words popped into your head? Water? Food? Energy? Climate change? Hurricanes and extreme weather events? These are only a few of the problems that CEE graduates will tackle in their professional life.

The National Academy of Engineering came up with 14 Grand Challenges for Engineers to solve in the 21st Century. Civil and environmental engineers make key contributions in several of those:

  • Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure
  • Provide Access to Clean Water
  • Manage the Nitrogen Cycle
  • Develop Carbon Sequestration Methods
  • Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery
  • Make Solar Energy Economical

Think about what kinds of problems you would like to help solve. If you aren’t sure what you want to do for a living or aren’t familiar with the different professional paths for engineers, check out our Careers page, where you’ll find more information on the kinds of jobs that our graduates have.

Graphic summarizing the difference between Civil and Environmental Engineering

What’s the difference?

Civil Engineering encompasses several areas of focus, including structural, geotechnical, construction, and transportation engineering. Environmental Engineering focuses on areas including water quality, green energy, air quality, and contaminated site remediation. There are some areas of overlap. For instance, both disciplines may tackle problems related to water resources, natural hazards, and the effects of climate change.

The CEE Department at UCONN also has revolutionary research and educational programs in two other key areas of the 14 Grand Challenges:

  • Advance Personalized Learning: UConn CEE is engaging in efforts to enhance student learning by personalizing the educational experience for all learners.
  • Enhance Virtual Reality: We're transforming engineering education by investing in Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality (VR/AR) technology to provide immersive learning experiences for our students.

If you are wondering how these fit into a civil and environmental engineering department, take a tour of our pages, or arrange for a campus visit and talk to our faculty and students.