Winter 2020 Newsletter

A Message From The Chair   Back

Dear Friends of Civil and Environmental Engineering,

I am proud to announce that, for the second year in a row, NJIT's Civil Engineering program has been ranked 2nd in College Factual's list of best civil engineering programs in the United States. Out of over 200 programs evaluated by the organization, only Georgia Tech outranks our department. Congratulations to the faculty, staff, alumni, and Industrial Advisory Board members who have made this wonderful achievement possible! Learn more in the full article below this message.

I am pleased to welcome Andrew Ciancia to the department who joined us this Fall semester as Senior University Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering. Professor Ciancia has over 45 years of diversified geotechnical engineering and senior management experience. Previously, Professor Ciancia taught geotechnical engineering courses at NYU and Rutgers. I invite you to learn more about his prior experience and accomplishments below.

I am also happy to welcome a new staff member to the department. Jeremy Reich is our new administrative coordinator involved in communications, outreach, and engagement. He is working to establish social media profiles for the department so that we can better communicate and collaborate with our stakeholders and will be working to increase the representation of women in the department's student body. You can learn more about Jeremy and his prior NJIT experience and accomplishments below.

Highlighted in this newsletter is the recent Engineering Career Day, a summer program for students from Qingdao University of Technology, the announcement for a newly launched course, as well as recognition for a number of student, faculty, and alumni achievements and milestones. I invite you to review some of the most recent research conducted by the department including Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV), green methods for the recovery of spent batteries, and an investigation of bioremediation processes for emerging contaminants.

Congratulations to the various students and faculty highlighted in this newsletter for their notable achievements!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and wish you a safe and happy new year!

Taha F. Marhaba, P.E., F.ASCE
(973) 596-2444
(973) 596-5790 fax                                        

Achievements Achievements

NJIT is Number 2 on College Factual's 2020 List
of  Best Civil Engineering Programs Nationwide

For the second year in a row, the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) program at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is ranked number two in the nation by College Factual, a data analytics and research company that focuses on outcomes. Only Georgia Tech is ranked higher on the list of 206 programs evaluated, while MIT is third.

The university's CEE program is ranked number one in the country for veterans, and in the top 20 for popularity and graduates' earnings.

In its 2020 report, the company described NJIT as "among your best bets if you're planning on studying Civil Engineering. Civil engineering students from New Jersey Institute of Technology get an earnings boost of approximately 15.2% above the average earnings of civil engineering graduates."

"We are pleased that College Factual's ranking continues to recognize our civil engineering program for its top quality and impact on the success of its graduates, said Taha Marhaba, chairman of NJIT's CEE department.

He added, "I attribute that success to a number of factors: faculty, staff and Industrial Advisory Board members who continually strive to improve the program; a significant investment in new infrastructure, such as laboratories with cutting-edge instruments; hands-on skills training, including building information modeling for multi-disciplinary design, detailing, engineering and construction; capstone design courses that immerse our students in real-world problems in the region, working on civil infrastructure with professional engineers."

College Factual's metrics include the caliber of the student body, educational resources and graduation and retention rates, as well as post-graduate earnings, among others, "metrics that measure the overall success of a graduate's educational and career life-cycle," Marhaba noted.

In addition to its annual rankings, the data analytics company provides information designed to help students make decisions about college, including average student loan debt per student and default rates; how well colleges retain and graduate students; graduates' starting salaries and earning potential; and return on investment based on cost of a degree. Civil Engineering ranks 21 out of 121 college majors in regards to projected salary.

In This Issue

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CEE In The News


The CEE Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) has created an annual scholarship fund to assist CEE undergraduate students in preparing for professional licensure. The fund reimburses testing fees to students who pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.  

Thank you for your generous support of this program.

New NJIT Next Gen Course Launched in Fall 2019 Semester

CEE has introduced a new NJIT Next Gen. course during the Fall semester. The course introduces students to soft skills that will enhance their ability to succeed in the field of engineering.

In collaboration with CEE'S Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), the department's objectives through the course are to help students develop skills in communication, relationship building, public speaking, business etiquette, time management, interviewing, and presentation. Participating students will improve their self-confidence, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills.

Students that attend all eight lectures will receive a scholarship.

Student Recognition

The American Water Works Association NJ recognized Monserrate Alevante as their September spotlight member due to her commitment and achievements. Alevante is the Social Media Chair of the NJIT Chapter and has been an active member since 2018. Congratulations Monserrate!

"I feel that by being a part of the Chapter I am able to learn ways to make a bigger impact in my community."

2019 Annual Moles Charitable Fund Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations to Matthew Laub and Conan Cullen for receiving 2019 Annual Moles Charitable Fund Scholarship!

Conan Cullen and 
Matthew Laub

Annual Athletics Department 4.0 Brunch

On September 27, 2019 the Athletics department celebrated the academic success of their student athletes who have achieves 4.0 GPA's during the fall and spring semesters. Four of our civil engineer students were recognized for their academic achievements. Congratulations to Brian McGlew, Zach Halma, Calvin Gould, and John Mongrella!

Alumni News

JOSEPH FLEMING  '76 was promoted to first executive vice president of PS&S. Fleming also serves as the principal-in-charge of all land services at PS&S which includes environmental permitting and remediation, utility services, surveying, landscape architecture and civil engineering.

STAVROS KAMILARIS  '85 was promoted to vice president at Dewberry. He is a professional engineer in New Jersey and New York and a professional planner in New Jersey.

ROBERT FOLEY '87 was promoted to senior associate at Dewberry. Foley is a professional engineer in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and Ohio. He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and 7X24 Exchange.

Eric Boschen '89 was named the ASCE North Jersey Branch Civil Engineer of the Year. Boschen is currently a Senior Associate at Dewberry. Read the full news release here!

MANUEL DA SILVA '93 was named acting chief executive officer of the Schools Development Authority (SDA) by Gov. Phil Murphy. Da Silva joined the SDA in 2010 as a senior manager in the engineering section. He went on to serve as program director of program operations and in 2017 he was named vice president of construction operations.

RICHARD SCHAEFER '98  has joined New Jersey Transit as chief engineer in the capital planning and program department. Previously Schaefer worked at HNTB Corp., where he spent more than 18 years in various roles, most recently serving as associate vice president and chief bridge engineer.

(M.S. in Civil Engineering, M.S. in Engineering Management '02) was named Fellow of The American Society of Civil Engineers. Prasad is an engineer and land surveyor with more than 25 years of professional experience in civil engineering and management.

(Surveying Engineering Technology '06) joined Dewberry as a vice president and department manager of the water/wastewater construction services group in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Yanoff is a member of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) and New York Water Environment Association (NYWEA).
RADEK TRAVNICEK '08 was appointed senior associate at Gannett Fleming. Travvnicek has a long history working with Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak and other transit-oriented agencies.

CEE Alumni can send their news to be featured in future newsletter to:

Faculty Administration Appointments 

Congratulations to Joyoung Lee, who has been promoted to associate professor with tenure!

Advisory Board

Representing a diverse cross section of civil and environmental engineering professionals, including design consultants, construction managers, contractors and attorneys .
Rocco Palmieri, P.E, P.P., PLS '72, '77,   (Chair)  Partner Engineering and Science

Ted Cassera, P.E., '72
Bowman Consulting

Anthony Castillo, P.E., '95 '02
SESI Consulting Engineers  

Jerome F. Gallagher, Jr., Esq. '80 Norris, McLaughlin, Marcus, PA

David Good, P.E., '78, '92 
Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers

Andre Grebenstein, LEED AP '95,  The Martin Group

Tony DeJohn, P.E., P.P.
WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff

Gareth Middleton, P.E., '93 '04
Tishman Construction, an AECOM Company 

Ed Peralta, P.E.,P.P., AICP, PMP, PTP, PTOE '04, '06 PANYNJ

Maurice Rached, P.E. 
Maser Consulting 

Joseph Stanley, P.E., P.P., '78, '85,   Mott MacDonald

Ken Sisk, P.E., '95
Pizzarotti IBC
Wei Wang, P.E., '95 
Urban Tech

Michael Wright, P.E., P.P., PMP '79 Arora and Associates, P.C.

Aine O'Dwyer, PE. '07,'08
Enovate Engineering

Tracey Regan
Diana Ochoa
Sylvana Brito
Jeremy Reich

Special Thanks
Strategic Communications
Office of Alumni Relations
Faculty/Staff, Students & Alumni

CEE Launches Training Course for Water Supply & Wastewater Operators Licensing

The Introduction to Water/Wastewater course is required by the state of New Jersey for Water Supply & Wastewater Treatment Operators Licensing exams . CEE is now offering a two-part continuing education course for water and wastewater professionals seeking an operators  license  starting in the Spring 2020 semester and concluding at the end of Fall 2020.

Registration is open now and classes being January 21st.

Learn more & register at


NJIT Engineers Get the Lead Out
Originally Published in NJIT Magazine

As Newark races to replace thousands of lead-based pipes that feed drinking water into homes, the city faces another urgent challenge: stopping the heavy metal from leaching into the water supply while the massive remediation effort is underway. 

And that's where NJIT's environmental engineers come in. To mitigate exposure over the life of the project, which is expected to take up to 30 months, a research team is working with the city to develop and test chemical methods to prevent lead-shedding corrosion in as many as 18,000 service lines that stretch from the water main located under streets into dwellings.


CEE Faculty & Students Are Studying Contaminants' Impact on
the Ramapough Lenape Nation

In a northern section of New Jersey's forested Highlands, a protected region that supplies a third of the state's potable water, sits the 500-acre Ringwood Mines/Landfill Superfund Site, a stretch of land scarred by abandoned pits and mineshafts, open waste dumps and a shuttered industrial landfill. Pollutants from the sprawling site have been found at high concentrations in the neighboring lands of the Ramapough Lenape Nation Turtle Clan, longtime hunters and foragers in the area. A wire fence separates them.

With a grant from the U.S. Geological Survey, environmental engineer Lucia Rodriguez-Freire is studying how contaminants from the site, a mix of organic pollutants such as benzene and 1-4 dioxane, heavy metals and a class of chemicals known as PFAS move through the region's wetlands and accumulate in the water, sediment and plants.

"But more than that, we want to know how those industrial chemicals interact with one another and with the microorganisms in the soil, and how they alter each other. Plant roots, for example, secrete polysaccharides that enhance microbial activity that transforms metals, affecting their bioavailability," says Rodriguez Freire, director of NJIT's Laboratory of Applied Biogeochemistry for Environmental Sustainability.

In addition to holistic environmental testing, she is conducting a series of lab experiments to study the way pollutants are absorbed and degraded by plants.

"Ultimately, we want to come up with mechanisms that transform contaminants to prevent their mobilization, or that enhance their plant uptake. Our objective is to minimize human and animal exposure," says Rodriguez-Freire, who has developed novel processes to extract and stabilize metals at abandoned mining sites in the Rocky Mountains that are also inhabited by Native American groups.

"In some cases, we might want the plants to absorb the pollutants - and then we'd remove them. With other vegetation, particularly if it's eaten by people are animals, we'd want to prevent uptake," she says. "It's possible to treat the soil by adding compounds that stop heavy metals from moving, like calcium or compost, or introducing compounds that promote plant uptake, such as citrate or the synthetic chemical EDTA, which bind with ions, making them more soluble and mobile, thus more readily taken in by plants."

High School Students Experience Civil Engineering at Recent NCE Career Day

For the last several years, the Newark College of Engineering has invited high school students to NJIT's campus for "Engineering Career Day." Students are given the opportunity to explore six diverse engineering fields, including Civil and Environmental Engineering. The goal is to expose students to the potential of a career in engineering and to help alleviate the national shortage of engineers.

The most recent career day was on Friday, December 6th with about 200 visiting students.  Faculty, staff, and teaching assistants from across the Civil and Environmental Engineering  department collaborated to showcase experiences for the visiting students throughout Colton and Weston Halls. Students experienced demonstrations in the Hydraulics Lab, the Strength and Materials Lab, the Soils Lab, the Weston Lab, and the Concrete Lab.

Nasser  Channaoui, Director of Labs - Research, performing a demonstration compression test on a concrete cylinder

Stephen George, Director of Labs - Education, demonstrating shielded metal arc welding (AKA Stick welding)

ASCE CI Student Day 2019

The Construction Institute (CI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) brings top engineering students from across the country together with potential employers. The program gives students the information and tools needed to stand out in a competitive job market while providing engineering recruiters the opportunity to get up close and personal with a stellar pool of candidates. Students are chosen to participate in these Student Days through a competitive application process.

Of the 36 students selected from across the country, two hail from our department here at NJIT. Congratulations to Alejandro Pinto and Gabriel Diaz!

Student Day participants are tasked with a challenge project that requires teams to develop a real-world construction project proposal that considers all conditions including local laws and regulations, minimized impact to traffic, surrounding residential/commercial areas, and shareholders. Alejandro and Gabriel worked on two separate projects focused on the rehabilitation of a section of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. They had the opportunity to visit the construction site, speak to engineers, and take advantage of program-provided classes to help them with their project proposals.

Gabriel Diaz and Alejandro Pinto

"The program did an excellent job at making this project as realistic as possible. It was an excellent opportunity to get exposed to real life situations, and difficulties encountered in the field when completing a project." - Alejandro Patino

Students From Qingdao University of Technology Visited NJIT This Summer

The Civil and Environmental Engineering Department welcomed visiting students from Qingdao University of Technology in China over the summer. The program included instruction and training in emerging environmental topics as well as professional topics such as ethics, leadership, and soft skills.

The experience gave the visiting students an opportunity to experience courses designed and taught by NJIT CEE faculty as well as a cultural experience of the Tri-State area. The group had the opportunity to visit Princeton University, Columbia University, and most of the iconic sites of New York City.

Meet Our New Faculty Member

We are pleased to welcome Prof. Andrew Ciancia to Civil Engineering Department as a Senior University Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering starting this Fall 2019 semester. Professor Ciancia has over 45 years of diversified geotechnical engineering and senior management experience and is the Chairman of the Board of Langan Engineering (since 2015), Environmental, Surveying, Landscape Architecture and Geology, DPC (Langan). He is also the former Managing Principal for Langan's New York City office.

Throughout his tenure at Langan, Professor Ciancia managed some of the company's most challenging projects in the New York Metropolitan area and across the country. He has been heavily involved with planning, evaluating, and managing many premier geotechnical related projects such as the Cornell Tech Center, American Museum of Natural History, and Columbia University expansion.

Professor Ciancia is a licensed professional engineer in New York State and 8 other states and is LEED AP certified. He is a member of The Moles, a Fellow of ASCE, and holds a Diplomate in Geotechnical Engineering from the Academy of Geo-Professionals. Ciancia is a member of DFI, SEAoNY, and is active with the American Council of Engineering Companies (Chair of the Engineering Excellence Committee), and former President of ACEC New York State. He serves on the NYC Department of Buildings Committee as Panel Chair to update the Soils & Foundations section of the 2014 Building Code, and was also on the Mayor's Building Resiliency Task Force.

Professor Ciancia has authored many technical papers, including co-authoring "The Avoidance of Damage to Historic Structures Resulting from Adjacent Construction," which was the basis for NYC Department of Buildings Technical Policy and Procedure Notice #10/88 (Avoidance of Damage to Historic Structures). He was recently awarded "2018 Engineer of the Year" by both ASCE Met Section and ACECNY.

Professor Ciancia holds BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from Rutgers University, is vice-chair of the Rutgers Civil Engineering Industry Advisory Board, and is a fellow member of the Board of Directors of the Rutgers University Alumni Association (RUAA). He has taught geotechnical engineering courses at NYU (1998-2010) and more recently at Rutgers.

Meet Our New Staff Member

We would like to welcome Jeremy Reich to the department as our new Administrative Coordinator for communications,  outreach, and engagement.

Jeremy previously was the Project Coordinator for NJIT's Collaborative for Leadership, Education, and Assessment Research. During that time, he helped design and launch the successful Future Ready Schools - New Jersey certification program, later taking a leadership role in that program's efforts to support K-12 schools' use, and support for the use, or technology in the classroom.

Jeremy will be reaching out to faculty to learn more about their expertise as he launches the department's profile both internally and externally, with a focus on increasing female representation in the department's student body.

A lumni Alumni

Industry Recognition

The New Jersey Immigrant Entrepreneurs 2019 Awards

Wei Wang, Ph.D., PE, President and founder of UrbanTech Consulting Engineering, and a member of our Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) was honored with the Albert Einstein Award for Innovation at the Seventh Annual New Jersey Immigrant Entrepreneurs Awards. The New Jersey Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards honors immigrant business leaders helping New Jersey communities thrive. The awards highlight the social and economic contributions of New Jersey's immigrants to communities throughout the state and celebrates the important role of immigrants to today's economy.

Dr. Wang was commended for his innovation and for tackling various engineering challenges such as the Marine Parkway and Third Avenue Bridges in 2011 and the replacement of two bridges in Middletown, Pennsylvania along with the Kiewit Construction Company. In addition, UrbanTech is regarded as a leader in Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC).

For the last three consecutive years, UrbanTech has also been nominated by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) and FORTUNE as one of the 100 fastest-growing inner city companies. UrbanTech has two offices in New York City and South Jersey with 86% of their employees being first and second-generation minority immigrants.

Dr. Wang has recognized that attaining US citizenship can be a challenge. He actively sponsors his employees' work visas and provides them with the opportunity to receive their green card. As a result, UrbanTech has a diverse team that fosters innovative solutions for today's engineering challenges.

Congratulations to Dr. Wang for your accomplishments and recognition!

Preparing for the Future: Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) Assessment Platform Using a Crowd-Sourced Cyber-Physical Reality

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Joyoung Lee, Ph.D is leading the research focusing on the assessment of Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) impacts on the individuals who are 1. passengers of CAVs, 2. Drivers in the vicinity of CAVs, or 3. pedestrians around CAVs. To seamlessly capture their cognitive (e.g., safety awareness, degree of comfort) and behavioral reactions (e.g., steering maneuvers, accelerating or decelerating activities), this project develops a novel assessment platform utilizing a crowdsourced cyber-physical reality to realize the high-fidelity evaluations of CAV.Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Joyoung Lee, Ph.D is leading the research focusing on the assessment of Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) impacts on the individuals who are passengers of CAVs, drivers in the vicinity of CAVs, or pedestrians around CAVs. To seamlessly capture their cognitive (e.g., safety awareness, degree of comfort) and behavioral reactions (e.g., steering maneuvers, accelerating or decelerating activities), this project develops a novel assessment platform utilizing a crowdsourced cyber-physical reality to realize the high-fidelity evaluations of CAV.

The CAV assessment platform offers some unique and novel features:
  • Down-scaled multi-layer transportation infrastructures including urban road, highway, on/off ramps, traffic signals, traffic sensors, and Connected Vehicle Roadside Unit (RSU)
  • Autonomous model cars equipped with Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications units utilizing Wi-Fi, Lidar-based obstacle sensor, vision sensor, and indoor GPS-based positioning system (communications between car and traffic lights at this phase - could be messaging )
  • Remote drivers and passengers and teleoperated robotic pedestrians with virtual reality interfaces
  • And a crowd-sourcing system to simultaneously accommodate a large number of drivers and pedestrians
The assessment is conducted on an approximately 1680 square-foot (56-ft X 30-ft) of the test platform space (Figure 1) with miniature buildings (Figure 2) and up to 30 model cars that can be used for either autonomous or human-controlled remote cars. It is noteworthy that, unlike similar miniature test beds existing in the U.S., this test platform is designed to reveal the potential issues caused by the combinations of the safety, human factor, and wireless connectivity aspects of CAV applications.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Green Method Development for Recovery Lithium and Cobalt from Spent Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium and Cobalt has been classified as strategy and critical materials under the Department of Defense of the United Stated of America (DoD). Due to the huge disposal and replacement of portable electronics and electronic devices, a significant number of used Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) will be generated, raising resource and environmental concerns. By recovering these spent-lithium-ion batteries, one country could satisfy the need of these strategy materials and also solve the environmental problem.

The method use for is to leach cathode from the spent Lithium-ion batteries using non-harmful organic acids (e.g., citric acid and acetic acid) and organic aqua regia without pretreatment such as immersion inN-methyl-pyrrolidone (NMP) or calcination. In contrast to other methods, direct leaching can prevent the secondary pollutant from organic solvents, corrosive acids, and toxic gases generated during the high heat calcination. Excess organic acids or thionyl chloride from organic aqua ragia is recyclable simply by distillation with nitrogen gas purging as illustrated below. One of Dr. Zhang's master student, Kaiqin Dong, recently received the graduate poster competition of 84th NJAWWA with 3rd award for this research.

The expected impact is to get over 90% leaching efficiency and also reduce the complicated and high cost pretreatment processesc such as organic solvent, long pretreatment time and over 400 oC calcination over-night which is more proper for industrial scale. This EPA project also aims to deliver essential information to and motivate small business to get involved in recovery of valuable metals from spent LIBs.

Integrative System Approach to Investigate the Fate of PFAS in Contaminant Mixtures in the Efficiency of Bioremediation Processes

Environmental contamination is usually made of complex mixtures of metals and organic compounds. In this project, we are working to determine the PFAS partition coefficients among the wetland water, sediments, microorganisms and plants, investigating the biological mechanisms controlling the transformation and fate of PFAS, and evaluating the symbiotic degradation of PFAS by microorganisms and plants in the rhizosphere of wetlands. The proposed work is expected to provide a holistic understanding of the fate and transformation of PFAS within the various environmental compartments in a wetland, and it will inform future remediation strategies and exposure prevention alternatives. 

Field measurements are combined with hydroponic experiments using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to assess the mechanisms of PFAS plant translocation and microbiome changes. This work focuses on the Ringwood/Ford Superfund, NJ site where lead, arsenic, chloroethane, benzene and 1,4-dioxane are the main contaminants of concern. However, PFAS have been measured in water, sediments and plants at different locations. PFNA, PFOA and PFOS have been analyzed in 8 locations, and elevated PFAS concentration was found in one location downstream a paint sludge disposal area (PFOS 445 ng/L, PFOA 23.78 ng/L, PFNA 25.69 ng/L). Hydroponic investigation on PFAS uptake by Arabidopsis thaliana shows PFOA preferred accumulation in roots, and a direct relationship with PFAS solution concentration. Field studies and hydroponic experiments will be complemented with a combination of molecular ecology, water chemistry, spectroscopic and microscopic techniques to investigate the physical, chemical, and biological processes controlling the speciation, mobility, bioavailability, degradation and phytoaccumulation of contaminants in freshwater wetlands impacted by legacy contamination. 

This work is expected to provide a holistic understanding of the fate and transformation of PFAS within the various environmental compartments, and it will inform future remediation strategies and exposure prevention alternatives.