A conversation with the new head of civil engineering


Joe Labuz

Earlier this year Professor Joe Labuz accepted a five-year appointment as head of the Department of Civil Engineering. Labuz served as interim department head since July 2012 and as a member of the faculty since 1987. He has conducted more than 20 transportation-related research projects in the areas of pavements, soils, and structures and has also served students as the director of both undergraduate and graduate studies. Below he shares his vision and directions for the department.


I am very much looking forward to my tenure for a number of reasons: the faculty are among the world leaders in their fields; our students more than ever are focused on developing skills that can be used to serve society; and the college is committed to supporting and rewarding cutting-edge research and quality instruction.

I should first acknowledge the previous head, Professor Roberto Ballarini. Through his leadership, the department experienced growth in research expenditures and student satisfaction. His vision was one of excellence in all that we do.

I will try to continue his legacy of excellence, while striving for my vision of building—building progressive educational programs in civil engineering, environmental engineering, and geoengineering; building research thrusts that are aligned with regional and state priorities; and building a vibrant, cohesive department where faculty and students are recognized nationally and internationally for distinguished academic achievement.


One of my first priorities is to build a state-of-the-art measurements laboratory for hands-on learning and instruction. Just as numerical modeling has become a common thread of engineering analysis and design, so too should sensing be a component of our core programs.

New degree program

Furthermore, the department is proposing a new degree program, the first in Minnesota: bachelor of environmental engineering (BEnvE). This reflects the extensive interests of our faculty and students in forwarding environmental issues within a civil and geoengineering paradigm. Our interests span from clean energy to water treatment, from hazardous waste to groundwater remediation, to name a few. The introduction of this program aligns us with many other leading civil engineering departments nationwide.

Name change

Perhaps the most exciting news is the name change to Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering. The proposed name will better reflect the character of the department and readily identify our degree programs. Note that the name will be unique in the U.S. The name change, when approved by the Regents, will be official on July 1, 2014.


On the research side, several initiatives are focused on issues important to the region and nation. Measurement and analysis of transportation infrastructure, environmental restoration of lakes and streams, and renewable energy such as wind and biofuels have substantial funding in the department, and resources such as faculty hires and laboratory space are being dedicated to these thrust areas.

CE building and labs

Finally, the building itself is being renovated and some laboratories are being remodeled, as is the second floor student lounge, through the generous support of WSB & Associates and the College of Science & Engineering. The unique underground structure received the 1983 outstanding civil engineering achievement award from ASCE. I look forward to inviting the community to visit sometime in December 2013 to celebrate the 30-year anniversary.

Posted in Bridges and structures, Environment, Pavements, Transportation research

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