Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Engineering the Built Environment: An Introduction to Structural Engineering


In this seminar, students will be introduced to the history of modern bridges, buildings and other large-scale structures. Classes will include presentations on transformations in structural design inspired by the development of new materials, increased understanding of hazardous overloads and awareness of environmental impacts.  Basic principles of structural engineering and how to calculate material efficiency and structural safety of structural forms will be taught using case studies.  The course will include a field trip to a Bay Area large-scale structure, hands-on experience building a tower and computational modeling of bridges, and a paper and presentation on a structure or structural form of interest to the student.  The goal of this course is for students to develop an understanding and appreciation of modern structures, influences that have led to new forms, and the impact of structural design on society and the environment.  Students from all backgrounds are welcome.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Sarah Billington

I am The Milligan Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education and Professor of structural engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  I teach undergraduate courses on introductory structural engineering and solid mechanics as well as graduate courses on materials for sustainable built environments and structural concrete design.  My research group studies sustainable, durable construction materials, their application to structures and construction, and their impact on wellbeing when incorporated into building design. As an undergrad I thought I wanted to study chemical engineering but ended up getting a degree in civil engineering with a minor in architectural design. I am most inspired working in interdisciplinary teams and now collaborate with chemical and environmental engineers as well as architects and experts in computer science and psychology.