Environmental Engineering at UCSD

The newly founded Environmental Engineering program within the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) at UCSD is a modern interpretation of this rapidly changing field. Unlike the classical environmental engineering topics (e.g. water sanitation, brownfield remediation) many new environmental engineering and sustainability challenges require strong quantitative skills. Renewable energy technologies require skills in material science and physics, climate change research requires individuals trained in fluid mechanics and environmental transport, sustainable building design requires deep knowledge of heat and mass transfer in complex geometries.


Faculty Profile: Paul Linden
Prof. Linden studies environmental flows in the ocean, atmosphere and in and around buildings. A world expert on the fluid mechanics underlying natural building ventilation, He advises UCSD and many other organizations in sustainable building design and operation.

Faculty Profile: Jan Kleissl
Prof. Kleissl's research targets turbulent transport of heat, water, and pollutants in urban, natural, and agricultural areas through computer simulations and field experimental studies.


Increasing industrialization and urbanization places increasing stresses on the environment. Governments react to these issues through regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. The scientific and policy questions that underlie these issues are interdisciplinary, but the solution to many questions is environmental engineering. More efficient use of natural resources, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, industrial safety, transport, urban air and water quality rely on technological innovations based on a sound knowledge of the underlying processes.

For many years, MAE has offered a world class program of teaching and research to provide training for mechanical, aerospace, and chemical engineers in the fundamental scientific disciplines. We expand upon this program with specific environmental engineering classes that teach the skills to develop new clean technologies for the future. The interdisciplinary nature of environmental problems is addressed through links with other departments at UCSD such as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Departments of Chemistry, and the majors in Urban Studies and Planning and Environmental Systems.  

Faculty Profile: Sarah Gille
Using remote sensing data from satellites and in situ ocean measurements, Prof. Gille studies climate and climate change in the ocean. Among her interests, she uses satellite data to examine daily variations in coastal winds (the sea breeze) and in sea surface temperature worldwide. She is interested in understanding how urban development or extreme events (such as a wild fire) might alter coastal winds.

Internal gravity waves (shown by parallel phase lines) generated by Kelvin-Helmholtz billows carry significant energy away in a stratified shear layer.

Faculty Profile: Sutanu Sarkar

Professor Sarkar studies transport, dispersion and mixing by flows in the natural environment. Applications include ocean mixing, contaminant transport in the environment, and atmosphere/ocean coupling. He is particularly interested in small-scale processes such as turbulence and nonlinear internal gravity waves in the environment where stratification, topography and rotation are complicating factors. He is also interested in developing accurate, simplified models of small-scale transport in regional climate models. He employs modern methods of computational fluid dynamics to conduct highly-resolved simulations of unsteady fluid motion in three dimensions that result in high-fidelity descriptions of the flow. The data is then investigated with sophisticated computational tools to deduce the dynamics, to develop theoretical insights, and to develop simplified models whenever possible.


Undergraduate students can participate in these activities through internships and independent research leading to awareness of the cutting edge of real-world environmental engineering challenges that can be ported to the private sector. Our students are trained very versatile to work in various engineering fields in the industry. They also receive an ideal preparation for more specialized Masters and Doctoral Programs in Environmental Engineering at other universities.

The UCSD campus is a world-leader in applications of environmental technology and has received the San Diego Excellence in Energy Award for three consecutive years. The campus managers are embracing environmental sustainability going far beyond the already ambitious targets set by the University of California:
  • All new buildings are LEED certified for low resource use. Ocean water will be used for building cooling.
  • A large shuttle fleet runs on clean-burning compressed natural gas saving thousands of miles of commuter traffic every day.
  • The campus electrical plant will burn waste gas off of a nearby waste water treatment plant to generate self-sufficient and sustainable electricity and heat for the campus.
  • The largest solar pholtovoltaic plant on a university campus in the world will be installed in 2008/2009 with 2.3 MW of electrical power.
  • The Environment and Sustainability Initiative advises the campus and local government on sustainable planning.
8 minute video on sustainability efforts at UCSD that are led by MAE faculty.
Faculty Profile: Robert Cattolica

Professor Cattolica leads a multi-disciplinary group of faculty across multiple UC Campuses developing systems and methods to optimize the thermochemical conversion of waste stream biomass into alcohol fuel and power. A specialist in the application of laser spectroscopy in combustion research and gas dynamics, Dr. Cattolica is applying new optical sensors in combination with advanced controls engineering to maximize the conversion of biomass to renewal energy.


What our first alumni say about the program:
Lisa Lowry (class of 2007): "After graduation [...]I took a position with an environmental consulting firm called Jones and Stokes, where I do air quality analysis and climate change consulting work. The reputation of the engineering program at UCSD was strong and I benefited from the fact that class sizes were very small in the upper division environmental engineering courses. The best part of the environmental engineering program is that students get to work with some of the best faculty at UCSD and also have a great deal of flexibility in choosing electives. I have applied to graduate schools for the following school year, where I hope to get my masters in environmental engineering. Environmental engineering is a small but rapidly growing field. I found that there was a great deal of interest in my major and that I was able to be selective in my choice of jobs."

Faculty Profile: Prab Bandaru

Professor Prab Bandaru is interested in using materials science concepts for environmental application. His current research themes involve (a) thermodynamic modeling and experimental validation, of nanostructured thermoelectric materials for enhancing the conversion efficiency of waste heat to useful electrical energies, and (b) efficient harness of solar energy through employing photovoltaics and near-field electromagnetic techniques.


Faculty Profile: Stefan Llewellyn Smith

Prof. Llewellyn Smith studies the transport by atmospheric turbulence of tiny pollen particles (a few um) from the anther to their deposition on the ground 100s of yards or more downwind. Will the transport patterns change for genetically modified pollen?

Faculty Profile: Keiko Nomura

Prof. Nomura uses computer simulations to study turbulence and vortices in environmental flows, e.g., how turbulence transports and disperses pollutants, how vortices are affected by atmospheric density stratification.

Faculty Profile: Daniel Tartakovsky

Prof. Tartakovsky uses statistical methods to improve mathematical description of water and contaminant flow in the soil.