departmental structure good move for all
While philosophy is considered to be the mother of all other
branches of learning, civil engineering is the mother of all
engineering outside of military engineering. After many offspring
departments have left home and prospered, civil engineering
needs to reinvent itself periodically to keep current with
greatest areas of intellectual ferment and world needs. The
Department of Civil Engineering and Operations Research (CEOR)
at Princeton has undergone another metamorphosis and has split
into two departments: the Department of Civil and Environmental
Engineering (CEE) and the Department of Operations Research
and Financial Engineering (ORFE).
The department of CEOR was put together in the 1970s when
the civil engineering department assumed the responsibility
of the basic engineering program and the statistics department.
For a long time, the department had three divisions: civil
engineering, water resources, and operations research. This
is a unique Princeton organizational arrangement that is not
shared by any of the major engineering schools, and it worked
very well for decades.
As time went by, each division found new intellectual stimulations
and major emerging problems of society to solve, so that the
core disciplines began to diverge more and more, and the department
lost cohesion. The faculty and students based their teaching
and research on different intellectual foundations, published
in different journals, and attended different conferences.
Water resources branched out to embrace all environmental
problems and needed expertise in chemistry and biology; operations
research branched out to financial engineering and needed
expertise in economics and finance. The banner of Civil Engineering
and Operations Research no longer accurately communicated
what they were doing.
The split was a grass roots affair. Each side felt that they
could do their work better under separate banners. The accomplishment
of the split made the faculty and students very happy. Each
department thinks that since the names of the departments
reflect what they do, it will be better for recruiting top
students and faculty, and for relating to industry and government.
"This is a new and exciting development," said
Peter Jaffe, chairman of CEE. The split allows civil
engineering a greater opportunity to pursue its own interests.
Environmental engineering has traditionally been a part of
the study of civil engineering, and the department's new title
better represents that symmetry. CEE offers four programs
of study: architecture and engineering, environmental engineering,
geological engineering, and structural engineering.
"We are trying to understand the design of nature,"
Professor Jaffe said. "We are linking the study of structural
engineering to the resulting environmental impact that structures
make. This is a new and exciting development. As engineers,
we have to work better with ecologists to learn how not to
negatively impact the environment."
Professor Jaffe explained that no longer can a civil engineer
design a highway, bridge, or dam without considering how the
structure will impact the ecological system of the surrounding
environment. A new course on tap this fall is CEE 263: Rivers
and the Regional Environment. Students will study river basins
and the fundamental frameworks for examining the natural environment
and its interaction with the works of society. These works,
exemplified by major dams, are the basis for the agriculture
and industrial development of modern society. The course will
explore the historical, scientific, and engineering of water
"Operations research is a discipline that uses the mathematical
techniques of engineering to solve problems in business and
industry," said Erhan Cinlar, chairman of ORFE.
The independent designation should make the program more attractive
to graduate and undergraduate students and allow it to recruit
more specialized faculty." ORFE is appropriate for students
who want an engineering education that emphasizes mathematics
and computers as preparation for careers in management consulting,
finance, industrial management, and public policy. This department
is the first of its kind to have "Financial engineering"
as part of its title, Professor Cinlar said. The Princeton
program takes special interest in the problems of financial
and insurance industries. It uses probability theory, statistics,
and optimization theory to assess the risk involved in various
activities and to create financial instruments to deal with
Offerings include courses such as electronic commerce, financial
risk management, and the theory of games.
"We were really like two college roommates with different
majors," Professor Cinlar said of the former department
structure. "Eventually you begin to see opportunities
for yourselves in different towns and move on."
These two departments will continue to cooperate when there
is an intellectual glue. For instance, they will likely work
together when studying the aftermath of natural disasters,
from earthquakes and wildfires to rainstorms and hurricanes.
The task of forecast and insurance involves statistics and
probability, as well as buildings, structures, and water resources.
They will come together when they see the same opportunity.
Let us offer our congratulations and best wishes to these
two new departments, as they are accelerating their paces
to find their places in the sun.
previous story ] [
next story ]
of page ]