Professor Markus Buehler, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), recently announced three leadership appointments in the department. Effective Sept. 1, Professor Elfatih Eltahir is associate department head; Philip Gschwend, the Ford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is director of the Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering; and Professor Daniele Veneziano heads CEE’s Materials, Infrastructure and Systems Group, also known as Pierce Laboratory.
“I am grateful for the leadership of Professors Eltahir, Gschwend and Veneziano to build an environment of excellence that offers superb opportunities for our students, and one that is well connected across MIT,” Buehler said. The department’s intellectual focus is discovery and innovation to understand the world, invent and lead with creative design to sustain life and society in ever-changing environments.
Emphasizing the use of quantitative approaches, CEE features two vibrant centers of gravity: environment, what exists as natural systems; and infrastructure, what is created by human activity. “Our department’s programs are at the core of some of the most urgent challenges of our time, and we are committed to spearheading MIT’s leadership in these domains by contributing top-notch educational and research opportunities for our students, research staff and faculty,” Buehler said. The department’s core mission is education, to train students and researchers such that they are best equipped as scholars, academic leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs to make an impact in the world.
In the position of associate department head, Eltahir will oversee the evolution of CEE educational programs and take the lead in representing the department in new Institute-wide initiatives. An MIT faculty member since 1994, Eltahir is a hydrologist whose research focuses on the role of the hydrologic cycle in shaping regional climates, and on connections of hydrologic processes to vector-borne disease transmission. He holds a B.Sc. in civil engineering from the University of Khartoum, an M.Sc. degree in hydrology from the National University of Ireland, and an S.M. in meteorology and Sc.D. in hydroclimatology from MIT. Eltahir is an elected fellow of the American Geophysical Union and recipient of the Kuwait Prize in Applied Sciences and the United States Presidential Award for Scientists and Engineers.
As director of the Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering, Gschwend will lead CEE’s multidisciplinary research center for the study of Earth's natural systems and their complex physical, chemical and biological processes. Gschwend received the B.S. in biology from the California Institute of Technology and the Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He joined the MIT faculty in 1981. He is an environmental organic chemist and geochemist who investigates the fates of organic compounds in the environment in order to assess the risks they pose, to design appropriate remedial strategies, and to anticipate unwanted effects from substances we may choose to make and use in the future. He has received six awards for teaching and mentorship, and is co-author of the textbook, Environmental Organic Chemistry (Wiley-Interscience, 2003). He succeeds Professor Dara Entekhabi, who served as director of Parsons Laboratory for seven years.
As head of CEE’s Materials, Infrastructure and Systems Group, Veneziano will lead the Pierce Laboratory, which focuses on innovative science and engineering approaches that advance the design of infrastructure materials, transportation systems, cities and energy resources. In his research, Veneziano applies probabilistic and risk analysis methods to system reliability, natural hazards and stochastic hydrology. He also collaborates on probabilistic modeling and data analysis with colleagues in transportation, mechanics and microbiology. He has consulted on high-visibility projects, including the failure of the World Trade Center, the stabilization of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the suspension bridge over the Messina Straits. Veneziano holds the laurea in architecture from the University of Florence and a Ph.D. in civil engineering from MIT. He joined the faculty in 1974 and is recipient of several teaching awards.