Interdisciplinary Research

The world faces significant challenges in the decades ahead: growing population, a changing climate, radical advances in technology, crumbling or inadequate infrastructure, to name but a few.

However, the exciting and energizing reality is that many of the solutions to these and other global issues will come from the engineers who are today learning, working and leading in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech.

To answer the call of service from our global society, we’ve started to think differently about our work. We're shedding the traditional boundaries between disciplines, allowing us to consider new ideas, new collaborations, new sources of inspiration and new areas of inquiry.

We think of our contributions to society in four broad, cross-cutting research areas: Sustainable Systems, Resilient Infrastructure, Healthy Communities and Smart Cities.

This is where we’re working at the front lines of the world’s grand challenges, at the intersection of social and economic systems, the built environment, and our natural world. By no means do these areas cover the full tapestry of creativity and impact that constitute our research endeavors. But these four broad areas represent the interdisciplinary focus of our scientific work.

It’s work that crosses traditional boundaries to develop new knowledge, technology and innovations, and ultimately, to invent a future where our global society thrives.


We are harnessing the potential of data to:

  • Create new ways of understanding our built environment and how it interfaces with the natural world.
  • Fundamentally change how we build and maintain the systems that enable our societies to function.
  • Instrument our interconnected infrastructure systems to assess their health and functionality.
  • Model future scenarios for city and regional infrastructure development
  • Enable people to make real-time decisions in economic development, transportation, energy-use, construction and beyond.

We are imagining new ways to:

  • Reduce the carbon footprint of the infrastructure systems that make our growing societies possible.
  • Adapt to a changing climate while working to slow those changes.
  • Address crumbling infrastructure systems, prioritizing repairs and replacements while envisioning next-generation systems.
  • Responsibly plan for and build infrastructure in rapidly developing areas.
  • Plan for our future communities while balancing the needs of urban and rural areas.
  • Plan communities and transportation systems to foster energy-efficient mobility.
  • Understand the impact of climate change on the interactions between energy, water and land systems in order to mitigate the effects on human society.

Our engineers are working to:

  • Strengthen our communities to withstand nature’s fury, protecting lives and property.
  • Create new systems and knowledge to help us bounce back from disasters, climate change and sea level rise.
  • Build smart infrastructure systems that can guide response and recovery efforts to long-term environmental changes and deterioration.
  • Improve how we forecast and assess natural disasters.
  • Monitor and model global water, energy and greenhouse gas cycles to mitigate and manage future stresses to infrastructure systems.
  • Understand the human psychology and decision-making processes to inform how we build resilience into our communities.

We are leading efforts to:

  • Provide clean air and water for a growing global community, especially in emerging economies where the health effects of pollution are most stark.
  • Efficiently and safely remove, recover and utilize waste from our communities while minimizing its impact on natural resources.
  • Harness the power of microbes and natural processes to clean up pollution and protect human health.
  • Understand how the built environment shapes our mobility, lifestyles and personal well-being so we can design healthier communities.
  • Capitalize on emerging technologies that promise to reduce transportation-related injuries and deaths, more efficiently clean our air and water, and safeguard our food supply.