Geoengineering at UMN

The Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering offers an accredited degree in geoengineering.

Geoengineering is the application of geosciences, where mechanics, mathematics, chemistry, and geology are used to understand and shape the design of natural and built infrastructure. For example, geoengineers work on underground transportation systems, surface and subsurface mines, supply of drinking water from groundwater, isolation of nuclear and hazardous wastes, stimulation of hydrocarbon reservoirs, and deep wells for exploration and production of oil and gas.

The history of geoengineering at the University of Minnesota dates back to 1888, when the School of Mines was established. In 1935, the School of Mines (and Metallurgy) offered bachelor degrees in mining, metallurgical, geological, and petroleum engineering. The School was disbanded in 1969-70, and two new departments were formed: Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and Civil and Mineral Engineering, where the geoengineering component of civil, mining, and petroleum engineering still thrives.

The current geoengineering program was started in 1970 by then-department head Professor Charles Fairhurst. For over 40 years, the geoengineering program at the University of Minnesota has initiated and promoted fundamental research and applications of research to civil, mining, and petroleum engineering problems related to the earth’s surface and subsurface. Some notable contributions include (a) servo-controlled testing techniques for determining post-peak behavior of rock; (b) the analytical element, displacement discontinuity, and distinct element methods for modeling geological systems; and (c) theory and experiments for describing shear bands in geomaterials.

The department recently revised the geoengineering program to recognize the importance of environmental and water/fluid resources issues in dealing with the analysis and sustainable design of infrastructure composed of or in rock and soil, as well as the development and responsible production of surface and subsurface mineral resources. The program provides flexibility and sufficient base for students to establish an emphasis in one of three areas: geoenvironmental, geofluids, or georesources. Geoengineering students gain a strong background in earth sciences, and in geomechanics and numerical modeling. That strong background is not matched by general programs or other specialties such as environmental engineering or even mineral engineering.