Environmental Engineering Remains in the Top 10 in the U.S.

The Environmental Engineering program at Yale – for the third year in a row - has made it into the top 10 of the U.S. News & World Report’s Graduate Engineering Rankings.

The rankings, released last week, list the program as 9th best in the US. Jaehong Kim, professor and chair of Chemical & Environmental Engineering, said the consistently high rankings show that the program’s reputation for quality is now well-established.

“A reputation takes time to build, but once you build it up, there’s momentum,” he said.

Guided by Yale’s global perspective, the program began in 1998 as an interdisciplinary program within the Department of Chemical Engineering and was designed to focus on areas of major importance to the earth's future and build on institutional strengths in environmental, biological, and engineering sciences. In 2010, the department was renamed the Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering to more accurately reflect the scope of the research and the degree offerings. The program now has six full-time faculty: Kim, Menachem Elimelech, Julie Zimmerman, Drew Gentner, Jordan Peccia, and Desiree Plata.

The program has risen in international prominence in a very short time, producing research that has contributed significantly to the understanding of crucial issues. These include water desalination and purification; environmental applications and implications of engineered nanomaterials; how energy production and use affects air quality; and how humans are exposed to bacteria and fungi in indoor settings. 

Kim noted that the ranking is all the more impressive considering the program’s size.

“We are by far the smallest program in the top 10, but the fact that with such a small number of faculty we are still able to compete means a lot,” he said.

As much as the program has accomplished in its short time, Kim said he would like Environmental Engineering at Yale take on more faculty in the future. “I think we are on track to be truly the top program in the U.S.” He added “we are looking forward to continuing what we’ve been successfully doing, but would also look forward to broadening our scope.”

He attributes the program’s success to a few major factors.

“The first thing is excellence of the faculty’s research, of course,” he said. “That receives a lot of publicity and scientific impact across the field - even though we are small, we are extremely visible."

Also contributing, he said, are the “amazing students” who have come through the program and have since taken on faculty positions and conducted high-impact research. One prominent example is Sharon Walker – one of the first students to graduate from the program – who was named this month the dean of engineering at Drexel University.

The program’s founder, Menachem Elimelech, the Roberto C. Goizueta Professor of Chemical & Environmental Engineering, agreed that students have been a major factor.

"The environmental engineering program has attracted outstanding graduate students and placed many of its graduates in academic positions at top research universities in the U.S. and abroad," he said.