Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

610 S. W. Mudd, MC 4709
Phone: 212-854-3143

The Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics focuses on two broad areas of instruction and research. The first, the classical field of civil engineering, deals with the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of the built environment. This includes buildings, foundations, bridges, transportation facilities, nuclear and conventional power plants, hydraulic structures, and other facilities essential to society. The second is the science of mechanics and its applications to various engineering disciplines. Frequently referred to as applied mechanics, it includes the study of the mechanical and other properties of materials, stress analysis of stationary and movable structures, the dynamics and vibrations of complex structures, aero- and hydrodynamics, and the mechanics of biological systems.


The department aims to provide students with a technical foundation anchored in theory together with the breadth needed to follow diverse career paths, whether in the profession via advanced study or apprenticeship, or as a base for other pursuits.

Current Research Activities

Current research activities in the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics are centered in the areas outlined below. A number of these activities impact directly on problems of societal importance, such as rehabilitation of the infrastructure, mitigation of natural or man-made disasters, and environmental concerns.

Solid mechanics: mechanical properties of new and exotic materials, constitutive equations for geologic materials, failure of materials and components, properties of fiber-reinforced cement composites,
damage mechanics.

Multihazard risk assessment and mitigation: integrated risk studies of the civil infrastructure form a multihazard perspective including earthquake, wind, flooding, fire, blast, and terrorism. The engineering, social, financial, and decision-making perspectives of the problem are examined in an integrated manner.

Probabilistic mechanics: random processes and fields to model uncertain loads and material/soil properties, nonlinear random vibrations, reliability and safety of structural systems, computational stochastic mechanics, stochastic finite element and boundary element techniques, Monte Carlo simulation techniques, random micromechanics.

Structural control and health monitoring: topics of research in this highly cross-disciplinary field include the development of “smart” systems for the mitigation and reduction of structural vibrations, assessment of the health of structural systems based on their vibration response signatures, and the modeling of nonlinear systems based on measured dynamic behavior.

Fluid mechanics: numerical and theoretical study of fluid flow and transport processes, non-equilibrium fluid dynamics and thermodynamics, turbulence and turbulent mixing, boundary-layer flow, urban and vegetation canopy flow, particle-laden flow, wind loading, flow through porous media, and flow and transport in fractured rock.

Environmental engineering/water resources: modeling of flow and pollutant transport in surface and subsurface waters, unsaturated zone hydrology, geoenvironmental containment systems, analysis of watershed flows including reservoir simulation.

Structures: dynamics, stability, and design of structures, structural failure and damage detection, fluid and soil structure interaction, ocean structures subjected to wind-induced waves, inelastic dynamic response of reinforced concrete structures, earthquake-resistant design of structures.

Geotechnical engineering: soil behavior, constitutive modeling, reinforced soil structures, geotechnical earthquake engineering, liquefaction and numerical analysis of geotechnical systems.

Structural materials: cement-based materials, micro- and macromodels of fiber-reinforced cement composites, utilization of industrial by-products and waste materials, beneficiation of dredged material.

Earthquake engineering: response of structures to seismic loading, seismic risk analysis, active and passive control of structures subject to earthquake excitation, seismic analysis of long-span cable-supported bridges.

Flight structures: composite materials, smart and multifunctional structures, multiscale and failure analysis, vibration control, computational mechanics and finite element analysis, fluid-structure interaction, aeroelasticity, optimal design, and environmental degradation of structures.

Advanced materials: multifunctional engineering materials, advanced energy materials, durable infrastructure materials, new concretes/composites using nanotubes, nanoparticles, and other additives with alternative binders, sustainable manufacturing technologies, rheological characterization for advanced cement/concrete placement processes.

Computational mechanics: aimed at understanding and solving problems in science and engineering, topics include multiscale methods in space and time (e.g., homogenization and multigrid methods); multiphysics modeling; material and geometric nonlinearities; strong and weak discontinuities (e.g., cracks and inclusions); discretization techniques (e.g., extended finite element methods and mixed formulations); verification and validation (e.g., error analysis); software development and parallel computing.

Multiscale mechanics: solving various engineering problems that have important features at multiple spatial and temporal scales, such as predicting material properties or system behavior based on information from finer scales; focus on information reduction methods that provide balance between computational feasibility and accuracy.

Transportation engineering: understanding and modeling transportation systems that are radically evolving due to emerging communication and sensing technologies; leveraging large data collected from various traffic sensors to understand transformation in travel behavior patterns; modeling travel behavior using a game theory approach to help decision-makers understand upcoming changes and prepare for effective planning and management of next generation transportation systems.

Construction engineering and management: contracting strategies; alternative project delivery systems; minimizing project delays and disputes; advanced technologies to enhance productivity and efficiency; strategic decisions in global engineering and construction markets; industry trends and challenges.

Infrastructure delivery and management: decision support systems for infrastructure asset management; assessing and managing infrastructure assets and systems; capital budgeting processes and decisions; innovative financing methods; procurement strategies and processes; data management practices and systems; indicators of infrastructure performance and service; market analysis.


The offices and laboratories of the department are in the S. W. Mudd Building and the Engineering Terrace.


The department manages a substantial computing facility of its own in addition to being networked to all the systems operated by the University. The department facility enables its users to perform symbolic and numeric computation, three-dimensional graphics, and expert systems development. Connections to wide-area networks allow the facility’s users to communicate with centers throughout the world. All faculty and student offices and department laboratories are hardwired to the computing facility, which is also accessible remotely to users. Numerous personal computers and graphics terminals exist throughout the department, and a PC lab is available to students in the department in addition to the larger school-wide facility.


The Robert A. W. Carleton Strength of Materials Laboratory
The Carleton Laboratory serves as the central laboratory for all experimental work performed in the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. It is the largest laboratory at Columbia University’s Morningside campus and is equipped for teaching and research in all types of engineering materials and structural elements, as well as damage detection, fatigue, vibrations, and sensor networks. The Laboratory has a full-time staff who provide assistance in teaching and research. The Laboratory is equipped with a strong floor that allows for the testing of full-scale structural components such as bridge decks, beams, and columns. Furthermore, it is equipped with universal testing machines ranging in capacity from 150 kN (30,000 lbs.) to 3 MN (600,000 lbs.). The seamless integration of both research and teaching in the same shared space allows civil engineering students of all degree tracks to gain a unique appreciation of modern experimental approaches to material science and engineering mechanics.

The Carleton Laboratory serves as the hub of instruction for classes offered by the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, most prominently ENME E3114 Experimental Mechanics of Materials, ENME E3106 Dynamics and Vibrations, and CIEN E3141 Soil Mechanics. The Laboratory also hosts and advises the AISC Steel Bridge Team in the design, fabrication, and construction phases of their bridge, which goes to regional and national competition annually.

Additionally, the Carleton Laboratory has a fully outfitted machine shop capable of machining parts, fittings, and testing enclosures in steel, nonferrous metals, acrylic, and wood. The Carleton Machine Shop’s machine tool pool is state-of-the-art, either of the latest generation or recently rebuilt and modernized. The machine shop is open for use by undergraduate students performing independent research and is supported by the Lab’s senior lab technician.

The Donald M. Burmister Soil Mechanics Laboratory
The Burmister Laboratory contains equipment and workspace to carry out all basic soil mechanics testing for our undergraduate and graduate programs. Several unique apparatuses have been acquired or fabricated for advanced soil testing and research: automated plain strain/triaxial apparatus for stress path testing at both drained and un-drained conditions, direct sheer device for minimum compliance, and a unique sand hopper which prepares foundations and slopes for small scale model testing. The Laboratory has established a link and cooperation for large-scale testing for earthquake and geosynthetic applications with NRIAE, the centrifuge facilities at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The Heffner Hydrologic Research Laboratory
The Heffner Laboratory is a facility for both undergraduate instruction and research in aspects of fluid mechanics, environmental applications, and water resources. The Heffner Laboratory houses the facilities for teaching the laboratory component of the ENME E3161 Fluid Mechanics course and includes multiple hydraulic benches with a full array of experimental modules.

The Eugene Mindlin Laboratory for Structural Deterioration Research
The Mindlin Laboratory has been developed for teaching and research dedicated to all facets of the assessment of structures, deterioration of structural performance and surface coatings, dynamic testing for earthquakes, and other applications. The commissioning of a state-of-the-art 150 kN Instron universal testing machine, a QUV ultraviolet salt spray corrosion system, a freeze-thaw tester, a Keyence optical microscope and surface analyzer have further expanded the Mindlin Laboratory’s capabilities in material testing and characterization. The Mindlin Laboratory also serves as a state-of-the-art medium scale non-destructive structural health monitoring facility, allowing the conduct of research in the assessment of our nation’s degrading civil infrastructure.

The Institute of Flight Structures

The Institute of Flight Structures was established within the department through a grant by the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation. It provides a base for graduate training in aerospace and aeronautical related applications of structural analysis and design.