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Message from the chair

June 12, 2019

Laura Lowes

Laura Lowes, Chair & William M. and Marilyn M. Conner

Perhaps fittingly for spring time, the past quarter has provided an opportunity to reflect on the growth of the department in numerous areas, evaluate our educational objectives and identify strategic areas for cultivation.

One area that continues to grow in both interdisciplinary scope and impact is our faculty and student research. This issue of The Bridge features research that involves faculty and students from across campus who are collectively working to preserve and protect the food system in Cambodia, which is threatened by hydropower development along the Mekong River. Closer to home, CEE researchers continue to innovate; in this issue you can learn about the development of a new houseplant that can clean your home’s air, as well as other research breakthroughs by our faculty and students.

Another area that continues to grow and change is our undergraduate curriculum. The department is currently preparing for an ABET review next autumn quarter. ABET accreditation substantiates the high quality of our BSCE and new BSEnvE degree programs and is highly valued by our graduates as it facilitates professional licensure. A core part of the ABET review process is a self-study to review our educational objectives and efforts to continuously improve our programs to better achieve the objectives. One critical component of our degree programs is the senior-year capstone design project; new this year, CEE is offering its first industry sponsored capstone design experience (see below with details on how to get involved).

At the graduate level, we are continually working to ensure our curricula meet the needs of professional master’s students and supports the research activities of our graduate students. An updated graduate curriculum for our transportation engineering students aims to provide the knowledge and skills students need to design transportation systems of the future. The curriculum now looks ahead to the year 2040, and includes topics such as electric and connected vehicles, as well as smart infrastructure that supports autonomous vehicles.

For many students, the learning they do in the classroom is just a part of their educational experience. Students learn countless skills through extra-curricular activities. These activities include the long-standing ASCE-sponsored Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge team competitions as well as the UW chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Recently, I’ve been impressed with the variety and number of additional competitions and activities in which CEE students participate, including UW Solar and Washington Hyperloop and even the business school’s annual Health Innovation Challenge.

Our alumni play an important part in the growth of the department. In coming months, we will be reaching out to our dedicated alumni via a short survey to ask for input on our degree programs and how our curriculum has prepared you for professional success.

Laura Lowes
Chair & William M. and Marilyn M. Conner Professor

Inaugural industry sponsored capstone

This year, CEE offered its first industry sponsored capstone design experience. An interdisciplinary team of six students from CEE, Human Centered Design & Engineering, Computer Science, and Communications developed a mobile-based incident notification and navigation system to increase awareness about major traffic incidents that affect the region’s transportation network and provide real-time data to strategically suggest alternate routes and modes of transport. The project was possible thanks to funding and mentorship from King County Metro, Sound Transit, WSDOT and Challenge Seattle, and support from the UW Mobility Innovation Center. Students were supervised by CEE postdoctoral research associate, Andisheh Rajbari, and CEE assistant professor Don MacKenzie. To provide additional hands-on learning opportunities, the department hopes to expand the number of industry sponsored capstone design projects. If your company has a suitable design project, please contact Jill Dalinkus ( Learn more.