Subject development and teaching

Geotechnical engineering

Prof. Einstein has developed and now teaches the graduate subjects in Engineering Geology, Rock Mechanics, and Undergraduate Construction. The current academic schedule is published in the M.I.T. course catalog.

Course descriptions:

1.38 Engineering Geology
Introduces theoretical and experimental aspects of rock mechanics and prepares students for rock engineering. Includes review of laboratory and field testing; empirical and analytical methods for describing strength, deformability and conductivity of intact rock and rock masses; fracture mechanics and mechanics of discontinua, including flow through discontinua and hydraulic fracturing; and design and analysis of rock slopes and foundations on rock. Also discusses blasting design. Includes term paper/term project.
1.381 Rock Mechanics
Studies the effect of geologic features and processes on constructed facilities; interaction between the geologic environment and man-made structures, and human activities in general. Planning of subsurface exploration. Engineering geologic characterization of soil and rock, including joint surveys and aspects of sedimented and residual soils. Laboratory on basic geologic identification and mapping techniques. Extensive reading of case histories. Field trip.
1.383 Underground Construction
Provides familiarization with the most important aspects of planning, analysis, design, and construction of underground structures in soil and rock. Covers detailed engineering analysis and design, and major aspects of construction techniques and construction planning. Discusses general planning and economic problems. Includes a major design project involving all aspects of underground construction.

Development and teaching:


In 1968, Einstein, then research associate, and his supervisor and mentor Professor Hirschfeld created a new graduate subject in Rock Mechanics. Prior to that some rock-related topics were covered in the graduate subject Engineering Geology, offered at the department per agreement with Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). When it became apparent that a single rock mechanics subject could not cover all aspects, Hirschfeld and Einstein created and began teaching the series Rock Mechanics I and II. During the academic year 1970-71, as a Visiting Assistant Professor (standing in for Prof. Hirschfeld during his sabbatical), Einstein taught Engineering Geology, Rock Mechanics I and II, and the undergraduate subject Geotechnology which covered introduction to physical geology and engineering geology.

In the summer of 1973, following his promotion to Associate Professor, Einstein developed a new graduate subject in Underground Construction. Through the 1970s, he taught annually the undergraduate 1.06 Geotechnology and graduate Engineering Geology and Rock Mechanics I, as well as Rock Mechanics II and Underground Construction in alternate years. In addition, he was one of several teachers from different specialties for 1.06, the project-based capping subject at the time. The two undergraduate subjects (1.10, 1.06) allowed him to introduce new problems and new learning approaches every year.

In the 1980s, following restructuring of departmental offerings, Rock Mechanics I and II were merged into one subject and some fundamental rock aspects were transferred to Engineering Geology; unfortunately, at the expense of application oriented aspects in engineering geology such as dam engineering geology, grouting, and slope instabilities. The undergraduate Geotechnology subject remained with a different number (1.32) and with increased emphasis on geo-environmental aspects; consequently, most of the students taking the subject were environmental students. Prof. Einstein taught annually Geotechnology and Engineering Geology, as well as Rock Mechanics and Underground Construction in alternate years, through the 1980s. He focused on significant internal development of the graduate subjects to reflect the current state of the art in research and applications: new findings in fracture mechanics and slope stability analysis in Rock Mechanics; and close form tunnel analysis and cost/time prediction in Underground Construction.

In the late 1980’s and through the 1990’s, massive development and use of IT-based educational tools took place at MIT. See Development of Educational Technology for description of interactive learning tools, developed by the Einstein group, and used to date for teaching the geotechnical engineering subjects. See also Overarching Activities on Education for the broader context of education restructuring, into which both pedagogical innovation and educational technology development have occurred.

See also Development of Educational Technology for IT learning tools used in the geotechnical subjects.

Civil engineering design

In the context of the new design-oriented civil engineering curriculum (presented in Overarching Activities on Education), Prof. Einstein co-developed and co-taught 1.012 Introduction to Civil Engineering Design, and 1.013 Senior Civil and Environmental Engineering Design. 1.012 was later replaced by the design sequence 1.101 and 1.102, Introduction to Civil and Environmental Design I and II, respectively. The Department currently offers 1.101, 1.102, and 1.013, which are taught and further developed by their respective instructors.

Development and teaching:


Prof. Einstein co-developed and co-taught the design subjects 1.012 and 1.013 between 2002-2013. Both subjects provided substantial hands-on experience. For example, in 1.012 teams of two students structurally designed, analyzed, built and tested a coat stand. In 1.013 students conducted background studies to critique the design of existing structures (e.g., John Hancock Building, MIT’s Green Building). The two subjects also involved designing the same project: in 1.012 on the feasibility study level; in 1.013 at the “final” level. Projects ranged from Industriplex (a contaminated site in Woburn) to MBTA stations in Boston (Green Line Trunk Section, Charles River Station). The most important hands-on experience in 1.013 was the design, analysis, building, and testing of a ten-foot span footbridge carrying a load of one ton (photo). Students also prepared a portfolio to document the design work and were interviewed with the portfolio in mock-job applications.

Next, an innovative learning experience called conceptual modeling was developed with funding from the MIT Alumni Funds (2005/2006) and the Department. In this learning approach, students had to design and build a model to demonstrate a physical concept, and then use the model to teach that concept to a High School class. Examples included a flying buttress, Inca water supply, and Moai move on Easter Island.

Within new Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Curriculum in 2005 with its main goal to have a unified sophomore core, the introductory design subject 1.012 was replaced by the series 1.101 and 1.102, Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Design I and II. They kept the basic philosophy, but had stronger lab components that satisfied the MIT undergraduate GIR lab requirement. 1.012 also led to the subsequent specialized design subjects in structures, geotechnical engineering, and transportation.

Einstein developed the integrated capping subject 1.013 in strong collaboration with Lecturer Lisa O’Donnell, Lab Instructor S. Rudolph and Visiting Lecturer B. Altabba. Within the new Civil and Environmental Curriculum in 2005, Einstein and Dr. P. Shanahan co-taught 1.013, which was a required subject for both Civil Engineering (1-C) and Environmental Engineering (1-E) students. To accommodate the interests of 1-E students, a natural hazard project was introduced at the beginning of the term and the major design project had both civil and environmental engineering components. Projects included the Miami/Southern Florida water project, vertical farms, home water containers in Ghana, the MIT Sailing Pavilion, and the New Civil Engineering Building.

The footbridge project in 1.013 uniquely demonstrated that real size implementation was an essential part of design. In order to have equal opportunity for analysis, 1-E students did the hydrology/culvert calculation, while 1-C students did the structural analysis of the footbridge. The variety of bridge designs spoke for itself: from classic trusses, to a welded chain forming an arch, to a bridge built from plastic bags, and one built from tires, etc. Many unusual ideas came from 1-E students, who liked the bridge project according to surveys.

From the beginning, 1.013 was built on extensive feedback from students with specific questionnaires and discussions. In 2007–2013 very detailed surveys were conducted and led to development of different design projects and other modifications. A final take-away from 1.013 was the need to use the subject partly as a remedial subject for students who had forgotten their structures and hydraulics classes.

For a summary of the related research and publications see Design-Based Undergraduate Curriculum.

Climate change

In collaboration with Dr. Ari Epstein of Terrascope, in 2016/2017 Prof. Einstein developed the new introductory design subject 1.S979 Infrastructure Design for Climate Change. Einstein and Epstein co-taught the new subject during the MIT Independent Activities Period (IAP) in 2017 as part of the Climate IAP course series. 1.S979 is a team-oriented project-based class that takes on the problem of sea level rise, specifically in Cambridge, Boston, and Singapore, and relevant to other large coastal cities. Funding for course development was provided by the Singapore Institute of Technology and Design (SUTD) and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The new subject has attracted MIT and SUTD students due to the pertinence of the topic, as well as through the use of innovative concepts in learning design, such as “design for failure” and “adaptive design”.