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Letter from the Chair

The past year has been one in which we saw the successful culmination of several major activities that have been underway for years, as well as the laying of the foundation of important new activities for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

As with last year, perhaps the most remarkable activity has been the student-led Solar Decathlon effort, which finished with the international competition held in Irvine, California, in October 2013. In the competition sponsored by the Department of Energy, a team of over 100 students from all parts of Stanford—led notably by CEE students including Derek Ouyang, the president of “Start.home”—conceived, designed, built and transported to Irvine a solar-powered house that is cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. Jim Leckie, Eduardo Miranda, Martin Fischer and John Barton advised the Stanford team, which finished fifth in the overall competition, and, with perfect scores in both components, first in affordability and energy balance. For more information about this remarkable project, please see

This year also saw CEE’s engineering expertise come to the fore in two projects carried out by Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions (COS). The first of these, involving Ali Boehm and her former PhD student Kevan Yamahara, is an ongoing collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Institute to use their novel Environmental Sample Processing unit to transform how coastal water quality is assessed. The second of these, involving Jeff Koseff, Oliver Fringer, Jamie Dunkley (a former PhD student of Jeff’s), faculty from Biology and Environmental Earth Sciences, scientists at MBARI and me (Stephen Monismith), is the Kelp Forest Array (KFA), a nearshore cabled observatory that provides real-time data on environmental conditions existing in the kelp forest stands located offshore of Hopkins Marine Station. The KFA is intended to be both a scientific tool and the prototype of a coastal environmental monitoring system. Keeping with the mission of COS, both projects are designed to inform the management of coastal waters.

Two activities are underway that will be transformative for the department. The first of these is a school-level initiative led by Martin Fischer and John Barton (and including most CEE faculty) to develop a vision for a coordinated program of research and teaching on Sustainable Urban Systems. By this we mean cities, their infrastructure (energy, water, transportation), as well as buildings and their systems. The aim of this effort is to establish a unique interdisciplinary graduate program in which physical scientists and engineers closely collaborate to address the most challenging problems of sustainability faced by cities. The second activity is the R3C (Resource Recovery and Reuse Center), a novel idea championed by Craig Criddle for a teaching and research facility on the Stanford Campus that would be designed to process Stanford wastewater using advanced treatment technologies so as to initially produce energy and clean water, and in the long term to recycle other material in the wastewater stream. An important aspect of R3C is that it is also designed to localize wastewater management so as to minimize the need for expensive large-scale distribution systems. As envisaged, R3C would be an important aspect of the Sustainable Urban Systems initiative and is a major component of ongoing work by ReNUWiT, the NSF center directed by Dick Luthy. Overall, I look forward to having more to write next year when these two initiatives have further progressed!


Jack Baker received the Early Achievement Research Award from the International Association for Structural Safety and Reliability (IASSAR).

Greg Deierlein was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Renate Fruchter received the 2013 ASCE Computing in Civil Engineering Award.

Lynn Hildemann received the 2013 Gores Award, the highest recognition given for teaching at Stanford.

Christian Linder was the 2013 recipient of the Richard von Mises Prize of the International Association of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics (GAMM).

Perry McCarty was awarded the Joan Hodges Queneau Palladium Medal for engineering achievement in environmental conservation from the National Audubon Society.

Alfred Spormann was elected a fellow of the American Society for Microbiology.

C. Bob Tatum was the 2013 winner of the ASCE Peurifoy Construction Research Award.

Department news

Jack Baker was awarded tenure this past year and promoted to associate professor in CEE. We are pleased that Jack will be with us for the foreseeable future, carrying out leading-edge research in earthquake engineering and risk assessment, as well as continuing his fine teaching of both undergraduate and graduate students.

William (“Bill”) Mitch joined us this past July as an associate professor in the Environmental Engineering and Science group. Bill, a UC Berkeley graduate who had been a professor at Yale prior to coming to Stanford, whose research in environmental chemistry and its engineering applications includes such topics as preventing the release of carcinogens from the primary process planned for use in CO2 removal from power plant exhausts. Bill is also a registered Professional Engineer in the state of California.

CEE continued to host a significant summer program of undergraduate research. Under the direction of Ali Boehm. This year, 24 Stanford undergraduates carried out independent research with our faculty, presenting their work at a poster session held in Y2E2 as part of Stanford’s Reunion Weekend events.

CEE has been engaged in the public domain. This past spring, Mark Jacobson, along with Mark Ruffalo and Marco Krapels, presented a clean energy plan to Senators John Kerry and Kirsten Gillebrand (NY), at a dinner hosted at the house of Chris (“Hardball”) Matthews (see also In mid October, Mark also discussed this plan on the David Letterman show.

Besides serving as the co-chair of the Science Advisor Team of the California Ocean Protection Council, Ali Boehm, currently West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel chair, will explore how science can inform natural resource managers’ responses to these environmental problems. For my part, I (Stephen Monismith) have been serving on a National Research Council committee evaluating ongoing restoration efforts in the Florida Everglades.

Ray Levitt completed a year as chair of the Stanford Faculty Senate. Reflecting their strong appreciation for his collegial and friendly handling of the 45th Senate, the traditional roast of Ray at the end of the year featured an image of Ray with his head superimposed on a Stanford football player, a skateboarder and a surfer.

Staying connected

I hope that you will remain an active member of the department’s alumni community by keeping us apprised of your activities and whereabouts. You can log on to the alumni site to update your contact information. I welcome your suggestions regarding the department’s directions and activities, and I encourage you to visit us to see firsthand our facilities and programs.

With best regards,

Stephen G. Monismith
Obayashi Professor and Chair
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering