Environmental Engineering M.Eng. Projects

Projects provide an unparalleled opportunity to work in a team to address a real engineering problem with the help of faculty, practicing engineers and consultants.

The M.Eng. program requires an engineering project of 3-6 units over 1-2 semesters. We offer a diverse selection of hands-on projects for the different majors that can either be taken over one or two semesters.

Students develop new solutions for open-ended civil and environmental engineering problems using laboratory experiments, field measurements, and/or computer modeling and simulations. Students can select projects to develop skills in engineering design, engineering research and development, and/or data analysis and decision making.

Group Projects

  • Provide opportunities to apply your skills to a real engineering problem.
  • Provide valuable insight to the sponsoring client
  • Involve worldwide traveling for fieldwork
  • Help you define a desired career path after graduation

Student teams have developed village scale sustainable water-supply treatment plant technologies and designs; seven such plants have been built in Honduras. They have modeled electricity microgrids for the waterfront energy district as well as for South Ithaca and the Cayuga Medical Center Hospital Complex, that provide energy from distributed generation in parallel with the regional grid but can also function in “island mode” during a grid failure. Work with the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility has also extended to converting part of the waste stream into liquid fuels for use in vehicles such as trucks or public buses, and extracting energy from the heat content of the waste water itself for use in district heating. Teams have also studied local hydropower and wind resources. 

Examples of M.Eng. Environmental projects

Students in raincoats on site at a land trust.

Restoration of Wetlands and Streams

Students are faced with a project assignment that requires them to investigate the challenges of wetlands restoration, research potential design solutions, regulatory requirements for wetlands, and develop a practicable solution (i.e., considering cost, logistics, and technology). These projects will be undertaken by a team of students just as they are done in the “real world”. It will require developing an interest in learning about other disciplines that are related to the problem (i.e., civil, environmental and biological engineering, surface and groundwater, geomorphology, soil science, aquatic chemistry, landscape architecture, horticulture, and plant science), and can involve people from many fields of study. 

Aerial view of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Photo credit: US Dept. of Agriculture.

Engaging with Community Stakeholders in Puerto Rico to Develop Resilient Systems after Hurricane Maria
Photo credit: US Dept. of Agriculture.

Students from various engineering disciplines at Cornell will work with Puerto Rican stakeholders and other collaborators to understand the current state, meet with stakeholders, develop recommendations, and (eventually) deploy prototypes and solutions. They will travel to Puerto Rico during either winter or spring break for hands-on work to implement their findings. Student project teams will tackle projects with a systems-perspective and work with stakeholders in government, private sector, and academia. Learn more about this project

Student in AguaClara lab

Advanced Water Treatment Technologies - AguaClara

Cornell's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering is a recognized leader in developing the next generation of water treatment technologies. This multidisciplinary and collaborative effort includes faculty in Environmental Engineering, City and Regional Planning, the College of Business, and the College of Human Ecology. Students with expertise in computer science, environmental processes, and fluid dynamics will be upgrading/testing and releasing designs for state of the art infrastructure that will help UN member states meet Sustainable Development Goal 6. The AguaClara program provides undergraduate & graduate students the opportunity to enhance their education with hands-on, real-world experience in humanitarian engineering and sustainable international development while simultaneously developing expertise in advanced water treatment and design methodologies. 

Engineering Management students

Carbon-Free Energy Alternatives for Cornell

Environmental Engineers have in recent years participated in Master of Engineering Team Projects to research the development of carbon-free energy alternatives around Cornell, the City of Ithaca, and surrounding Tompkins County. These sustainable energy projects combine environmental analysis of pollution reduction and climate protection benefits of energy technologies, as well as economic feasibility assessment of investment in them. 

Students near solar panels

Renewable Energy: Bioelectricity from Waste Material

CEE M.Eng. project teams have collaborated with the local Ithaca Area Waste Water Treatment Facility, or IAWWTF, to develop carbon-free methods for generating electricity from water treatment sludge, trucked waste arriving at the IAWTTF, and energy content of the waste stream itself (Effluent Thermal Energy Recovery, or ETER.)  These sources can be combined with on-site commercial-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) to power a local electricity microgrid based at the IAWWTF and capable of powering wastewater treatment and surrounding electric loads in the event of a region-wide grid outage. 


Effluent Thermal Energy Recover technology at the Ithaca Area Waste Water Treatment Facility 

The Ithaca Area Waste Water Treatment Facility, (IAWWTF), is a facility located along the Ithaca waterfront that process about 6 million gallons of effluent per day, including that of Cornell University.  There is interest at IAWWTF in an emerging technology known as Effluent Thermal Energy Recover, or ETER, whereby thermal energy in treated wastewater is extracted and distributed for space heating purposes in buildings.  In summer, the wastewater can be used as a heat sink for cooling buildings.  The purpose of this project is to assess the technology from a technical perspective and to perform an ecological and economic analysis of it, covering both its environmental benefits and potential as a capital investment in technology.

This project builds on several projects that CEE M.Eng. student teams have conducted in recent years, focused on development of carbon-free energy alternatives around Cornell, the City of Ithaca, and surrounding Tompkins County, in collaboration with partners from local industry.  In addition to IAWWTF, potential partners include the City Harbor residential and commercial development along the Cayuga Lake waterfront, the proposed health care facilities to be built by Cayuga Medical Center and Guthrie Health System, and the expansion of Green Star Natural Foods Market. The purpose of the project is two-fold: first, to create a preliminary design for a system to distribute energy from the source to the various heating and cooling loads; and second, to estimate capital and operating cost, and compare to conventional energy sources.  The project will incorporate the academic disciplines of energy systems analysis, environmental engineering, and engineering economics, and may potentially touch on construction management and real estate development.


If you are interested in learning more about any of these types of M.Eng. Environmental projects, please contact CEE's Graduate Program Coordinator, Tania Sharpsteen  email: tms235@cornell.edu

Mike Rolband

I think the key is to find a program like ours, where you are going to get some hands on experience of working with teams and getting projects done, that you can apply to anything in the future.

— Mike Rolband, Professor of Practice

Learn more about the M.Eng. in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell Project Experience!