PhD in Civil Engineering

Doctor of Philosophy

WPI’s PhD in civil engineering immerses you in rigorous studies and research, pushing you to cross boundaries even as you define an area of focus, be it construction project management, environmental engineering, highway infrastructure, structural engineering, or geotechnical engineering.

One-on-one faculty mentoring helps assure your success as you work together to customize a program of study.  You’ll have state-of-the-art equipment at your disposal, including access to civil and engineering labs and computers labs, many of which are located within the department’s home building.


Curriculum for PhD in Civil Engineering

As a part of the PhD in Civil Engineering at WPI, you’ll divide your time between in-depth research and classroom study, with specialized courses such as Advanced Design of Steel Structures, Structural Design for Fire Conditions, Hazardous Waste: Containment, Treatment and Prevention, and Open Channel Hydraulics.

You’ll also pursue a minor field of study outside of civil engineering, which may be established by three courses in the area you choose. Popular areas include Industrial Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, and Materials.


While pursuing your PhD in Civil Engineering at WPI, you’ll be at the forefront of cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research exploring areas like sustainability, natural resource preservation, design, construction, architecture, and energy.

Our pioneering faculty are currently engaged in globally recognized studies on pavement engineering and highway materials, analysis and design of structural systems and smart structures, construction and sustainable building design, and physical and chemical treatment processes, to name a few.

Small class sizes, state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, and close interaction with faculty means you don’t get lost in the crowd here.

Our grad students work on problems with a multidisciplinary approach, so collaborations with other departments gives your work even greater potential impact.

Research at WPI solves real-world problems—from using innovative materials to provide more efficient heating and cooling in buildings to protecting water resources to designing bioinspired structural materials.

At WPI, we consider the big picture and our students leave with that valuable approach. That means you’ll see an immediate problem like wastewater treatment and will consider how the solution might have additional environmental, societal, or technological impacts.

As a graduate student in WPI’s Civil & Environmental Engineering department, you’ll work in state-of-the-art laboratory facilities both on campus and at project centers around the globe. You’ll have access to advanced instrumentation not found at other universities, including a device that can characterize novel bioinspired materials and structures and help construct advanced infrastructure systems.

Faculty Profiles

Jeanine Denu Dudle
Associate Professor- Civil & Environmental Engineering, Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering

My teaching and research interests focus on water quality and the safety of drinking waters. I study water from source to tap: where do contaminants originate from, what is their fate in the environment, and how do we engineer treatment processes to protect public health? I am particularly interested in preventing the transmission of pathogens through water. In source waters, I aim to identify sources of pollution and understand the fate, transport, and survival of those pollutants in the environment.

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Shichao Liu

Prof. Liu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). His research focuses on built and urban environment, occupant-building-environment interaction, and integrated design for sustainable and healthy buildings. Prof. Liu envisions his research promoting built sustainability and occupant well-being through the interface among building science, information science, public health, and social science.

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Rajib B. Mallick

Rajib Basu Mallick is currently the Ralph White Family Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WPI. He graduated from Jadavpur University, India, in 1989 and received his master’s degree and PhD from Auburn University, USA. He also worked as a senior research associate at the National Center for Asphalt Technology, USA. Rajib’s main research interests are in the optimum utilization of natural resources and sustainable construction, specifically related to the pavement industry.

Nima Rahbar

My research and teaching activities in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering are in the area of the mechanics of materials and structures. At WPI, my favorite aspect of teaching is working one on one with graduate and undergraduate students on research projects. I like to excite students’ curiosity towards discoveries and creative scientific advancements. In our research group, we focus on the fundamental principles that control the behavior of materials in engineering and biology at multiple scales.

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Aaron R. Sakulich
Associate Professor-Engineering, Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering

Replacing our crumbling national infrastructure with conventional materials would be only a temporary solution to a critical problem. My research focuses on developing new, more durable materials for use in infrastructure, which will lead to a lowered maintenance burden, improved user safety, and a reduced environmental impact. Personally, the part that I like most about this subject is the chemistry.

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Mingjiang Tao

I teach geotechnical and pavement engineering courses at WPI. My favorite teaching activities are helping students develop critical thinking skills and become independent learners and problem solvers for their future career in civil engineering.

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Steven Van Dessel
Associate Professor & Director Architectural Engineering Program, Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering

My research and teaching activities are in the area of sustainable building design and building technology, with a special focus on the study of adaptive building enclosure systems. One of the goals of this research is to develop smart materials that can alter their thermal properties in response to changing outdoor conditions, in order to conserve energy and optimize building thermal comfort. This research entails the use of energy modeling tools, experimental investigations including synthesis of new materials, and the study of practical applications.

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Harold W. Walker

Harold Walker is the Schwaber Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WPI. Prior to his appointment at WPI, Professor Walker was the Founding Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at Stony Brook University. Professor Walker also served as the co-Director of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook and was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the New York State Drinking Water Quality Council. Prior to Stony Brook, Dr.

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What Does a Civil Engineer Do?

Whether you have specific questions about the day in the life of a civil engineer or are wondering what a PhD in civil engineering salary looks like, our career outlook for civil engineering is your go-to guide. Maybe you’re contemplating if a PhD in civil engineering is worth it and aligns with your career aspirations. If you want to be a part of building a more sustainable tomorrow and dive into in-depth research, earning a doctorate degree is a step in the right direction. Do you first need to earn your master’s so you can land your dream position in the civil industry? Explore our master’s in civil engineering where you’ll participate in immersive, team-based research to solve critical problems in our society. For those interested in a practice-oriented degree that will provide fundamental leadership skills and applied teamwork, consider earning a MEng in civil engineering. Have you always wanted to learn about efficient ways to build and maintain infrastructure? A master’s in construction project management is rigorous, yet practical, immersing students in construction engineering processes, risk mitigation, and more. If you are fascinated by your surrounding environment, a master’s in environmental engineering will help elevate your knowledge in areas like treating industrial wastes, storm water quality control, and more.

Do you have a busy work schedule and need a more flexible option? We offer two niche graduate programs in environmental engineering and construction project management 100% online. If you are passionate about managing large construction projects at every stage, consider earning an online master’s in construction project management. Maybe you’re intrigued by water-quality topics, hydraulics, and resource management? Our online master’s in environmental engineering may be a good fit for your career.

Are You Ready to Begin Your Academic Path with a Bachelor’s Degree?

Does the idea of civil engineering spark you passion for improving life around the planet? If you’re interested in protecting the earth’s natural resources or improving the global infrastructure, then look into a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. If you are more focused on how to help preserve natural resources and use the most high-tech materials for sustainable building design, WPI’s architectural engineering BS will provide you with the academic foundation and skills you need to pursue a meaningful career.

Gain Skills and Knowledge with a Certificate in Water Quality and Water Resources

Water is a critical topic, a global concern, and professionals with expertise in the field are sought after. If you’ve got a bachelor’s degree and you’re looking for additional environmental engineering knowledge that can translate immediately into your job duties, a water quality systems certificate will give you the skills and understanding you need. If you already have a master’s degree, but are looking for a deeper level of coursework, the advanced water resources certificate is going to help you become more proficient to meet the demand for professionals that are fluent in sustainable policies and practices around water.

Supplement Your Academics with a Targeted Certificate in Construction Management

If you are considering an advanced degree but are unsure of the right path or if you are looking for more expertise, a certificate program might be just what you need. Certificate programs at WPI introduce you to graduate-level work while bestowing expertise you can apply to your studies or your work. Our four-course certificate in construction project management is focused on building information modeling, cost estimating procedures, and negotiations and conflict resolution so you can manage complex construction projects more effectively. If you need flexibility, the online certificate in construction project management will help you take courses from wherever you are.