University launches a new major in environmental engineering.

By Brian Hudgins • Photo by Timothy Sofranko

Tom DiStefano, professor and acting chair of civil and environmental engineering

Tom DiStefano, professor and acting chair of civil and environmental engineering

Students who have their sights set on becoming environmental engineers will soon have a wealth of new learning opportunities. The University's environmental engineering degree program, approved by the Board of Trustees in October, will debut during the fall semester.

Bucknell's bachelor of science environmental engineering degree program provides a distinctive focus on all three aspects of sustainability — social, economic and environmental. Environmental engineering majors at Bucknell will experience an exceptional technical program with a strong laboratory component augmented by sustainability-related social sciences and humanities courses.

U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics project a 22 percent job growth rate for environmental engineers from 2010–20. "There has been a growth in the need for environmental engineers worldwide," says Keith Buffinton, dean of engineering. "Students are looking for environmental engineering programs."

The degree program will incorporate a focus on sustainability and life-cycle assessment (LCA), including a typical assessment of the economic impact of engineering project developments and an analysis of a project from beginning to end. "A life-cycle assessment evaluates the environmental and economic implications of a project over its entire life, starting with resource extraction and energy requirements, through production, operation, end-of-life, disposal and reuse," says Tom DiStefano, professor and acting chair of civil and environmental engineering. "For example, when a product or facility has served its useful life, how can it be reused? That is something our alumni liked, having an LCA instead of solely considering pros and cons and capital and annual costs."

Sustainable policy courses also will be offered to give students insight into decision-making processes. "Often, engineers are not the ones making decisions regarding the application of technology," DiStefano says. "Society needs technically educated leaders. Our program will graduate engineers who have an appreciation of policy and the significant effect of the engineering profession on society. Hopefully, some will participate in policy development and enable better decision making throughout all levels of the public and private sectors."