Civil and Environmental Engineering Solutions to the COVID-19 Pandemic

illustration of mobile phone with covid on screen, faucet with covid in water, and covid in transportation as illustrated by railroad crossing sign

The COVID-19 Pandemic has infiltrated nearly every aspect of our economy and society. More than just our health has been affected: our travel patterns have changed, our experience at work has been completely disrupted, our social lives have shifted more heavily online. We cannot think of the virus as solely an issue of personal or public health. This pan-societal threat requires interdisciplinary solutions and leaders.

In response, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and its Industrial Advisory Board held a series of panel discussions entitled Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) solutions addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our Industrial Advisory Board members are leaders at civil and environmental engineering firms, organizations, and government agencies, and help guide the direction of the Northeastern CEE program.

The impact of the pandemic on all facets of life necessitates a broadly interdisciplinary approach to combating the disease, mitigating its economic impacts, and building a more resilient world against future threats. Drawing on the deep expertise of our faculty and industry leaders, these discussions explored the ways in which we may respond to the pandemic’s impact on our health, society, and economy.

Held over the summer, the panels covered three broadly interdisciplinary topics. Below, you can review each topic and watch a recording of the panel discussion.

Urban Mobility and the Gig Economy: The Future of Urban Life and Work with COVID-19

This panel explored the effects of the pandemic on urban mobility, how people will interact within new urban regions, and the impact on one of our economy’s newest forms of employment: the gig economy.

About the Panelists

Assistant Professor Qi Ryan Wang is an expert in urban and social resilience, and natural disaster response.

Assistant Professor Michael Kane is an expert in human-in-the-loop control of civil infrastructure.

William Roache, E’75 is Executive Vice President and Chief Strategic Officer at VHB.

Charles Russo, P.E. is Chief Executive Officer of Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH).

Moderator: Gregory Janey, CCM, MS’09 is the President & CEO of Janey Construction Management and Consulting Inc.


The Future of Transportation Resilience: Transportation Systems in the Age of COVID-19

The potentially close quarters of public transit, the near-term impact of the stay-at-home advisories on air travel, and the shift in many businesses to incorporate working from home, all exhibit the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the broader fragility of our urban systems. Our panelists discussed what transportation systems and transportation resilience may look like in a post-pandemic world.

About the Panelists

Professor Stephen Flynn, Founding Director of the Global Resilience Institute, is an expert in critical infrastructure resilience and public policy.

Erik Stoothoff, P.E., E’00 is Chief Engineer for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

Sam Sleiman, P.E., CCM, FCMAA, NAC, Hon.D.Eng, E’83, MS’85 is the Director of Capital Programs and Environmental Affairs for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Moderator: Christine Keville, FCMAA, NAC, Hon.D.Eng, MS’90 is President & CEO of Keville Enterprises, Inc. and President of The Moles


Environmental Health in a Pandemic: The Impact of COVID-19 on Water Systems

The coronavirus has altered the ways in which we live and travel, with potentially damaging effects on water quality, and potentially revolutionary opportunities to detect the virus in the early stages of infection. In this discussion, our panelists explored the implications of COVID-19 on water quality and the environment.

About the Panelists

Assistant Professor Ameet Pinto is an expert in microbial ecology in drinking water and wastewater systems.

Assistant Professor Kelsey Pieper is an expert in drinking water quality and studies the impact of it on human health, especially in under-served and underrepresented communities.

Brian Sullivan, P.E., E’81 is the President of Tetra Tech’s Infrastructure Northeast Region Operating Group.

William Howard, P.E., E’69 is an Executive Vice President at CDM Smith.

Moderator: Heather Ford, E’79, MS’87 is the Managing Director of STEM Learning and Development at Global Training & Events Group LLC.

Related Faculty: Kelsey Pieper, Michael Kane, Qi “Ryan” Wang, Stephen Flynn, Jerome F. Hajjar

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering