Research in the department provides new data sets that challenge and improve theories of how the environment is maintained and is changing. We study the underlying processes that control climate, air and water quality. We design engineering solutions that provide resiliency in these areas. Broadly, our environmental physics group studies global climate dynamics using both simulation/theory and observations; our geochemists and biologists study the processes that control past climate, how ocean circulation has changed, and the biology and chemistry that influences greenhouse gas concentrations; our terrestrial group studies the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, biological productivity, microbial communities, and landscape evolution; our atmospheric chemists study photochemical processes, air pollution, and aerosol/cloud dynamics and chemistry; our engineering effort includes development of waste and drinking water treatment technologies for developing countries. Interactions with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are an essential part of our research and some of these collaborations are being supported by the new JPL Researchers on Campus program (JROC). The Linde Center, provides office space to JPL scientists strengthening these ties. Many of our faculty research projects are supported by funding from the Resnick Sustainability Institute.

Students enter the ESE program with diverse backgrounds, from the basic sciences of physics, chemistry, and biology to applied science and engineering fields. The curriculum emphasizes interdisciplinary knowledge and is broad, yet it is flexible so that different backgrounds and focus areas can be accommodated.