Environmental Emphasis

The environmental engineering research program seeks innovative and sustainable solutions to soil-, air-, and water-related problems in natural and engineered systems.

Focus areas

Focus areas include the following:

  • Environmental chemistry
  • Water, wastewater, and stormwater treatment
  • Water quality
  • Soil and groundwater remediation
  • Environmental microbiology
  • Pollution prevention
  • Energy and environment
  • Air pollution
  • Pollutant fate and transport
  • Bioinspired materials for environmental applications

Research may be laboratory, field, or computer model based.

Environmental engineering is a broad and interdisciplinary subject. The diverse backgrounds of our faculty and students and wide range of our current research projects reflect this breadth. Graduate students in our program have undergraduate degrees from civil or environmental engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, biology and environmental science. Graduate enrollment includes about 30 full-time and 10 part-time students. Approximately half of the full-time students are in the Ph.D. program.

Students not only take courses in environmental engineering, but also in other departments, such as public health, public policy, chemistry, chemical engineering, microbiology, ecology, soil science, and mechanical engineering. Some of the activities that our students are involved with include Minnesota Environmental Engineering Students, Engineers Without Borders, and the 3-year dual masters program between Civil Engineering and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Environmental Engineering and Water Resources Engineering also offers a Master’s Sustainable Development Program.

Through a partnership with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), M.S. and Ph.D. students have opportunities to take classes and conduct research at NTNU.

The program has five full-time faculty members, and draws on faculty in other areas of the department with closely related research interests.

Faculty: Environmental engineering

Students doing fieldwork
Students doing fieldwork.


Full-time students in environmental engineering are typically supported through one of three sources: fellowship funds, teaching assistant (TA) positions and research assistant (RA) positions. Most students in the program are supported through RA positions and include the project research in their theses.

Specific sources of research grants include: the National Science Foundation, USDA, DOE, USGS, NASA, the Department of Defense, AWWA Research Foundation, private companies (such as 3M), state agencies and local water utilities.

Typically a student who submits a standard graduate application to our program will be considered for all available funding opportunities. An exception is the Engineering the Future program.

Engineering the Future

The University of Minnesota is an approved institution for the Engineering the Future program. The program provides up to $20,000 in funding for master’s students in environmental engineering who agree to work for three years at the program’s sponsoring agencies following graduation. Master’s students are also eligible for teaching and research assistantships. Students must apply directly to the program. The deadline is Dec. 15.

Environmental Faculty

  • William A. Arnold (Environmental organic chemistry, including the reaction rates and mechanisms of pollutants; and the development of treatment/remediation technologies.)
  • Sebastian Behrens (Microbial processes for bioremediation of (in)organic environmental contaminants (mining wastes, agriculture runoff) and the recovery of valuable resources from municipal/industrial wastes.)
  • Paul D. Capel (Adjunct. Environmental chemistry; transport and fate of organic chemicals in the environment; and the effect of agricultural modifications to the natural hydrologic system.)
  • Xue Feng (Environmental)
  • Miki Hondzo 1 (Ecological fluid mechanics - fluid flow-biological interactions; water quality and transport processes in lakes, rivers, and watersheds.)
  • Raymond M. Hozalski (Microbiological processes for water and waste treatment; water distribution system issues; surface water quality monitoring; and stormwater management.)
  • Timothy M. LaPara (Biological wastewater treatment; microbial ecology; and environmental microbiology.)
  • Paige J. Novak (Environmental microbiology; biological hazardous waste treatment; and the occurrence and treatment of endocrine disrupting compounds in water.)
  • Boya Xiong (Environmental)

Emeritus Professors

  • Patrick L. Brezonik (Impacts of human activity on water quality and the biogeochemical cycles of important elements — nitrogen, phosphorus, trace metals — in large natural systems–watersheds and lakes.)
  • John S. Gulliver 1 (Environmental fluid mechanics; mass transport in environmental systems; and flow and mass transport at hydraulic structures.)
  • Michael J. Semmens (Physical and chemical processes for water and wastewater treatment, with an emphasis on membrane processes.)
  • Heinz G. Stefan 1 (Environmental hydrodynamics and water quality modeling in natural and man-made water systems.)

Associated Faculty

  • Dylan Millet (Associate Professor in the Department of Soil, Water and Climate; Resident Fellow Institute on the Environment)
  • John Nieber (Professor in Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering)
  • Matt Simcik (Associate Professor in the School of Public Health)
  • Brandy Toner (Associate Professor in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate)
  • Bruce Wilson (Professor in Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering)
  • Satoshi Ishii (Assistant Professor in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate)

1 See also Water Resources Engineering