For many years, graduate students have flocked to Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus to study under researchers in the Whiting School's Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, widely recognized as one of the nation's best.
Beginning in fall 2002, DOGEE will expand its program to accommodate undergraduates who want to make environmental engineering their primary area of study. The department already offers several classes geared toward undergraduates and since 1994 has offered a minor in environmental engineering. Now, however, Hopkins will become one of fewer than 40 schools nationwide to award a bachelor of science degree in environmental engineering.
The curriculum will prepare students for jobs or advanced study addressing air, water and soil pollution problems and the impact of global warming. Some students may become leaders in utility economics and environmental policy-making.
"At Engineering School open-house programs, we've consistently been approached by young people who wanted to major in environmental engineering," said Marc Parlange, chairman of the department. "Some of these students ended up choosing another major here at Hopkins and opted for a minor in environmental engineering. Unfortunately, some students chose to go elsewhere. Now, we'll be able to accommodate students like these."
These environmental engineering majors will be educated in a department whose roots can be traced back to 1937, when Abel Wolman, then chief engineer of the Maryland State Department of Health, founded the university's Department of Sanitary Engineering.
In recent years, the realigned Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering has repeatedly placed among the top 10 graduate programs in its field in national magazine rankings. Its faculty members include experts in environmental chemistry, microbiology, hydrology, risk analysis, water resources engineering and waste management, as well as environmental economics, public policy and urban systems.
DOGEE's faculty began discussing an undergraduate major in 1990, and the idea moved closer to fruition as the department added four new faculty members during the ensuing decade, Parlange said. About three years ago, the department formed a committee to decide which courses should be required for the new major. The goal was a curriculum that would allow Hopkins to compete with existing programs at schools such as MIT, Stanford and Cornell by drawing upon the strong programs already in place in DOGEE and across Hopkins.
"We realized we had an opportunity to build upon the strengths that already exist at Hopkins, such as our links with the schools of Public Health and Medicine and the other engineering departments," Parlange said.
With these connections in mind, the new environmental engineering majors will be able to choose among four concentration areas: environmental management and economics, environmental engineering science, environmental transport and environmental health engineering. Even premed students will be able to tailor a course plan to support their academic goals.
The new major will require all students to master a rigorous array of classes in math, physics, chemistry, biology and engineering design, Parlange said. With this foundation, Hopkins environmental engineering majors will be better prepared for industry jobs or graduate study than students who emerge from typically much less demanding programs in environmental science or environmental studies, the DOGEE chair said.
The popularity of environmental engineering appears to be growing. Parlange pointed to a recent report stating that American colleges and universities awarded 697 bachelor degrees in environmental engineering in the year 2000, up from just 168 in 1991.
Jenny Rolling, who organizes job fairs as recruiting director for the Homewood campus's Career Center, said employers from many engineering companies, including those that handle construction projects and government contracts, tell her they are looking for the specialists Parlange hopes to produce.
"In most of these companies' projects, there needs to be input from an environmental engineer," Rolling said.
The new Hopkins major already has received approval from panels representing university administrators and faculty members and from the state's Higher Education Commission. The department is seeking approval from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
To accommodate interest in the new major without disrupting existing programs, the Engineering School enrollment will grow by 20 students during each of the next four years. The Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering also hopes to add two new faculty members by next fall.
Under certain circumstances, current undergraduates may be permitted to switch to the new major.