Disclaimer: this page represents my own personal advice gleaned from my experience in working with graduate admissions at CU. Thus this webpage is not an official set of rules from the CEAE department or the CU graduate school. Official information can be found on the CEAE and EVEN webpages.
This is an informal page that gives advice for prospective students in Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) at CU Boulder. CEAE is a large department, with many interesting faculty and innovative research. Much of this research spans multiple sub-disciplines in civil engineering. When you are an undergraduate student in civil engineering or a related field, you likely were required to take a large number of courses that span a wide array of subjects. A graduate degree, on the other hand, requires more specialization. Specifically, this is both in the degree that you take (CEAE, as its name suggests, provides three degrees: civil, environmental, and architectural engineering) and a specific set of courses called a subplan. Below, I go into detail about some specific subplans. But first let's talk about:
Why does my subplan and degree matter?
Great question! First, you have to declare a subplan and degree when you apply to the program. Depending on what you pick, a different individual will read your application and shepard it through the process. Unlike in undergraduate admissions, graduate admissions are a 'local' process within the CEAE department itself, and individual faculty members such as myself are in charge of the process. Some important comments about degree and subplan:
- The degree and subplan are mainly about your coursework, and the format of exams that you take such as the preliminary exam and defense.
- Therefore, it doesn't necessarily affect your research. As you'll see below, students in my group for example have been in two different degrees (civil and environmental) and different subplans too. But, you should try as much as possible to align your degree/subplan/coursework to the desired research that you want to do here at CU.
- You do declare these items when you apply, but you can change them! Sometimes we will identify people who have selected the wrong box on the application and reach out to you directly. This is something you should talk about with the faculty you're in touch with during the recruiting process, as well as your academic advisor when you come into the program.
More About Subplans and Degrees
I have served as graduate committee representative for the Hydrology, Water Resources and Environmental Fluid Mechanics subplan within the Civil Engineering degree, and in the past I've also served in this role within Civil Systems in Civil Engineering. I've also advised students in Environmental Engineering. However in AY 2021-2022, I am on sabbatical and am therefore not answering general graduate inquiries.
The three subplan/degree options are:
- Hydrology, Water Resources and Environmental Fluid Mechanics (major: Civil Engineering)
- Civil Systems (major: Civil Engineering)
- Environmental Engineering (major: Environmental Engineering)
The civil engineering degrees are most prevalent in my group. They deal with civil infrastructure systems and the flow and transport of water, with the core disciplines of math, physics, and earth sciences. The two subplans for which I have advised are:
Hydrology, Water Resources, and Environmental Fluid Mechanics (HWR&EFM): Core courses associated with hydrology, water resources, and environmental fluid mechanics (as the name implies), and an excellent group of faculty that work on computational modeling, fieldwork, and lab applications.
Civil Systems (CS): An interdisciplinary group of faculty in CEAE with interests in civil infrastructure systems, structures, environment, water, and more. The core courses include an overview of civil systems analysis and life cycle assessment. Students can choose from one or more domain areas, for example, combining water classes with other disciplines.
Recently, the environmental engineering program began offering a separate graduate degree, for which I have advised students based on my status as EVEN program faculty. The focus of environmental engineering is more about the quality and chemical processes associated with the environment and environmental pollution, with core disciplines including chemistry and biology. The general “Environmental Engineering” subplan is the only offering as far as I know for the research degree. But the EVEN program faculty are also creating new professional MS degrees (no research) that are coming online in the next few years. Although it is possible to select "environmental engineering" as a subplan within a civil engineering degree, this is no longer encouraged. Learn more about environmental engineering options here.