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.
- 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.
Fall Semester M.Eng. Environmental Engineering Projects
Environmental Impacts of Formal and Informal Mining Activity in Ecuador (Reid)
The green energy revolution will require a significant increase in the use of mineral resources for the renewable energy technologies required for a low carbon future. This project is part of a new partnership between Cornell University and Lundin Gold, a Canadian mining company with a strong record in responsible mining practices. Lundin is exploring 25 metallic mining concessions along the Suarez basin in Ecuador containing copper, silver, antimony, and other “transition minerals” essential for green energy technologies. The M.Eng student(s) working on this project will contribute to the development of a predictive geometallury (Geomet) model linking the geochemistry of ore materials to environmental impacts, particularly water quality impacts in the watershed of Lundin’s Fruta del Norte mine. The student(s) will use geospatial techniques to visualize spatio-temporal patterns in water chemical parameters and their relationship to formal and informal mining activities in the Fruta del Norte watershed, using shapefiles that have been provided by Lundin. The student(s) will have the opportunity to work in a highly collaborative multi-disciplinary team that includes engineers, geologists, social scientists, and industrial partners from Lundin, Cornell, and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador.
Modeling of air pollutant dispersion (Li)
The goal of this project is to work in the research group of Prof. Qi Li on modeling of air pollutant data. The project takes data on air pollution dispersion over time and writes code that predicts patterns of dispersion for purposes of being able to reconstruct the dispersion process and model the impact of changing policies and trends on future dispersion patterns.
Solar photovoltaic canopies to create shade and reduce summer temperatures in urban settings (Vanek)
This single-semester, 3-credit project is open to multiple M.Eng students to form a team and deliver a single final report at the end of the semester. The project is motivated by the situation in many urban and especially low-income settings in U.S. cities, where lack of tree cover leads to increases in peak temperatures in summer months. Community organizations in Los Angeles, Baltimore, and elsewhere are working to plant trees to increase shade, but these of course will take time to grow. As a complement and not a replacement to more trees, the goal of this project is to assess the feasibility of shade canopies covered with solar photovoltaic panels. The project builds on previous M.Eng project experience with solar canopies for parking lots. The design of the canopies is also inspired by canopies over basketball courts in locations such as Puerto Rico or Central America where tropical rains during the rainy season might prevent sports from being played without canopies. The canopies that are the focus of this project could be built over basketball courts or urban parks. The addition of solar panels indicates that the canopy is not only a response to the impact of climate change, but that it also contributes to mitigating climate change by generating green electricity. Some of the design questions include 1) for a rudimentary design, what is the rough cost, 2) how much can they lower temperatures inside the shaded area, 3) how to balance shade but also allow sufficient daylight inside the structure so that its function as a park or sports arena is not diminished, 4) how much electricity can be generated by the solar panels and what might the possible market be for that power. Environmental engineering M.Eng students are invited to join, and engineering management M.Eng students may join as well if they complete an additional 1-credit assignment on the project management dimensions of the project.
Assessment of transportation electrification with carbon-free energy sources (Vanek)
This single-semester, 3-credit project is open to multiple M.Eng students to form a team and deliver a single final report at the end of the semester. The goal is to survey the electrification of highway transportation including not only passenger cars but also potentially heavy-duty vehicles such as school buses, construction equipment, and freight vehicles. The team will survey battery and power train systems as well as carbon-free energy sources such as solar and wind that can provide primary energy. Since inequality in society is a prominent issue at this time, the scope will include consideration of ways in which economically disadvantaged communities (both urban and rural) can participate in transportation electrification. The report should include not only advantages of electrification but emerging challenges such as adequacy of key raw materials (e.g., rare metals), mining and extraction impacts, and capacity to recycle end-of-life components such as battery systems. A local application in the Ithaca area is under consideration. Both transportation and environmental engineering M.Eng students are invited to join.
Spring Semester M.Eng. Environmental Engineering Projects
Evaluation of powdered activated carbon for controlling disinfection by-products and taste/odor at the Cornell University Water Filtration Plant with additional testing of process changes for disinfection by-product reduction (Bordlemay)
This single-semester, 3-credit project is open to multiple M.Eng students to form a team and deliver a single final report at the end of the semester. The Cornell University Water Filtration Plant (CUWFP), which provides the Cornell Ithaca campus of 33,000 students, faculty and staff with all its potable water, is evaluating the effectiveness of Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC) and other process changes for controlling disinfection byproducts along with taste/odor. Disinfection By-Products (DBP) are chemical compounds that are formed as a result of disinfection of water with oxidizing agents such as hypochlorite. The reaction between the disinfectant and other organic and inorganic constituents in the water produce undesired DBPs that are strictly regulated by the New York State Department of Health. The goal of this project is to 1) determine the potential reduction in DBP formation this plan will have on Cornell's water system, 2) estimate the capital and maintenance costs and 3) provide guidance to the CUWFP for control of DBPs. This project gives M.Eng students an opportunity to participate in a real world project that will have a positive impact on the greater Cornell community.
Rapid dual media filter optimization study at the Cornell University Water Filtration Plant (Bordlemay)
This single-semester, 3-credit project is open to multiple M.Eng students to form a team and deliver a single final report at the end of the semester. The Cornell University Water Filtration Plant (CUWFP), which provides the Cornell Ithaca campus of 33,000 students, faculty and staff with all its potable water, is testing some process changes to optimize the performance of the dual media, sand and anthracite filters. Currently, a small dose of sodium hypochlorite is added to settled water before filtration which enhances filter performance but may contribute to the production of Disinfection By-Products (DBP). As an alternative we are adding a small dose of coagulant to the settled water to enhance filtration without the addition of chlorine. The goal is to compare the performance of the filters 1) only with the addition of chlorine 2) with chlorine and with coagulant 3) without chlorine or coagulant 4) only with coagulant. Additionally, we would like to quantify the DBP formation potentials with and without the chlorine addition to the settled water.
Development of a drinking water source protection plan for Cornell University’s drinking water supply (Bordlemay)
This single-semester, 3-credit project is open to multiple M.Eng students to form a team and deliver a single final report at the end of the semester. The Cornell University Water Filtration Plant (CUWFP), which provides the Cornell Ithaca campus of 33,000 students, faculty and staff with all its potable water, is working with the communities and stakeholders that reside within the Fall Creek watershed to develop an action plan for protecting Cornell’s drinking water source. Students will aid in the creation of a potential contaminant source inventory along with mapping in GIS. Students will then have the opportunity to identify protection and management methods that will benefit the Cornell Water Filtration Plant. This work will be a collaborative project between Cornell and The New York State Department of Health which will offer students an opportunity to engage in a real world project.
Assessment and optimization of Cornell’s strategy for control of lead and copper in drinking water (Bordlemay)
This single-semester, 3-credit project is open to multiple M.Eng students to form a team and deliver a single final report at the end of the semester. The Cornell University Water Filtration Plant (CUWFP), which provides the Cornell Ithaca campus of 33,000 students, faculty and staff with all its potable water, is conducting a reevaluation of its lead and copper corrosion control plan. This work is motivated by updated regulations set forth by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for control and prevention of lead and copper in drinking water. Students will familiarize themselves with the current Lead and Copper Rule and the Lead and Copper Rule Revision and use that knowledge to evaluate Cornell’s current corrosion control strategies. This includes testing water at different points throughout the distribution system for corrosion inhibitor and conducting an in-depth review of best practices in the water industry for lead and copper control.
Urban-scale waste resource recovery system design (Gu)
The goal of this project is to carry out research in support of the design of an urban-scale waste resource recovery system, such as a system that recovers energy from the wastewater treatment process to generate electricity or heat. Students in this project will support undergraduate students engaged in a 4000-level CEE capstone design project. The Fall 2022 course CEE 6565 Wastewater management and resource recovery is a prerequisite for this project.
Cornell Carbon-neutral campus: Industrial-scale heat pumps (Vanek)
In response to the growing threat of climate change and the need to transition to a sustainable energy system, Cornell University has set a target of achieving a carbon-neutral campus by the year 2035. One major step in this direction is to improve the energy efficiency of the campus using new technologies and best practices, and industrial-scale heat pumps that move heat from a source in one location to an application in another are a tool for this purpose. These units are like domestic heat pumps that can heat a single home from the ground or air, but are much larger size, with capacity on the order of 1 to 10 million Btu. There is growing national and international interest in using heat pumps in many applications, and Cornell would like to participate in this effort. As part of the project, the student team will first carry out a market survey of large-scale heat pump applications, including manufacturers providing the equipment and specific example projects. They will then focus on a preliminary design of one or more heat pump applications at Cornell and assess their technical feasibility. This collaboration between Cornell University Energy and Sustainability under the Campus Sustainability Office and the M.Eng program in the School of Civil & Environmental Engineering builds on previous projects, including a study of the steam-to-hot-water conversion (Fall 2019) and solar photovoltaic canopies for parking facilities (Fall 2020) and a district ground source heat pump system (Spring 2022).
If you are interested in learning more about any of these types of M.Eng. Environmental projects, please contact CEE's Graduate Program Coordinator, Andrew Armitage, Assistant Director of Graduate Programs, Email: email@example.com