The undergraduate major in Environmental Engineering prepares students for careers in both industry and government agencies concerned with managing water, energy, public health and the environment. The program is also a good foundation for further study in Earth science, engineering, business, management, law and public health. The curriculum provides students with a quantitative understanding of the physical, chemical and biological principles that control air, water and habitat quality and sustainability on Earth, along with expertise in the design, development, implementation and assessment of engineering solutions to environmental problems.
Environmental engineers are distinguished from other environmental professionals through their focus on problem solving, design, and implementation of technological or management systems.
Environmental engineers search for creative and economical ways to use resources efficiently, limit the release of residuals into the environment, develop sensitive techniques to track pollutants once released and find effective methods to remediate spoiled resources. They serve as the vital link between scientific discovery, technological development and the societal need for protecting human health and ecological integrity.
In the coming decades, environmental engineers will increasingly be called upon to address broader issues of environmental sustainability by minimizing the release of residuals through altered production processes and choice of materials; by capturing the resource value of wastes through recovery, recycling and reuse; and by managing natural resources to meet competing societal objectives.
UC Merced emphasizes a highly interdisciplinary approach to environmental engineering, combining a strong theoretical foundation with field studies, laboratory experiments and computations. Core courses within the major provide students with a firm foundation in the physical and life sciences and the ways that they apply to energy, hydrology, and air- and water-quality issues. Emphasis areas allow students the flexibility to study in more depth by following tracks developed in consultation with their academic adviser(s). The main areas of emphasis for Environmental Engineering at UC Merced are hydrology, water quality, air pollution and sustainable energy.
Hydrology focuses on the sources, balance and use of water in both natural and managed environments, including precipitation, mountain snowpack, river runoff, vegetation, water use and groundwater. Both the physical and chemical aspects of the water cycle are included.
Water quality focuses on engineering solutions to water and waste issues, including measurement technology, water-quality assessments, treatment systems and remediation of contaminated waters. Physical, chemical and biological aspects are included.
Air pollution and sustainable energy focus on engineering solutions to air quality and energy problems, both regionally and globally. The sources, fate, effects of air pollutants, as well as the planning and design of solar and other renewable energy systems are included.
Engineers need to understand not only the technical but also the social and political contexts of their work. They must be able to communicate and plan, finance and market their products and ideas. Social sciences, business, humanities and arts courses are an important part of the curriculum. The result is a major that is hands-on and creative, engaging and adaptable.