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Society of Women Engineers

SWE Life Member Dawn Tilbury to Head NSF Engineering Directorate

SWE Life Member and University of Michigan mechanical engineer to lead investments in fundamental engineering research and education

Published On: June 2017

The following is a press release from the National Science Foundation.

June 19, 2017

Dawn Tilbury

Dawn Tilbury

Today, Dawn Tilbury begins her appointment to lead the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Engineering (ENG), which supports engineering research and education critical to the nation’s future and fosters innovations that benefit society.

Tilbury comes to NSF from the University of Michigan (U-M), where she is a professor of mechanical engineering and served as associate dean for research in the College of Engineering. As associate dean, Tilbury led the development of interdisciplinary research teams to advance both large- and small-scale projects.

“Throughout her career, Dawn Tilbury has built collaborative relationships across disciplines to make research projects successful,” said NSF Director France Córdova. “I am thrilled to have that kind of leadership for the Engineering Directorate, which makes imagining real and future technologies possible. She is also passionate about mentoring junior faculty, particularly junior women faculty, in their careers — a passion shared across NSF as we seek to develop STEM talent from all sectors and groups in our society.”

ENG provides about 43 percent of federal funding for fundamental research in engineering at academic institutions. For Fiscal Year 2016, ENG distributed about 2,500 new awards. Research funded by ENG has enriched the understanding of natural systems, enhanced electronics, fortified the nation’s infrastructure and introduced the exciting possibilities of engineering to the next generation.

ENG is home to many NSF programs that foster innovation and technology transfer. NSF’s renowned Small Business Innovation Research program enables companies to undertake research and development with high technical risk and high commercial reward. The Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program encourages faculty and students to pursue commercialization of technologies based on previous NSF-funded research.

“I welcome the opportunity to work with the engineering and scientific community to address the big challenges that face the nation and world today,” Tilbury said. “These challenges require interdisciplinary approaches that rely on engineering, as well as social and computer science, biology, chemistry, physics and the geosciences, and other fields. As the primary funder of basic research, NSF is uniquely positioned to bring people together to discover new approaches to renewable energy, reliable transportation, enhanced health and safety, and other national challenges.”

A professor at U-M since 1995 in both mechanical and electrical engineering, Tilbury has a background in systems and control engineering. As the first chair of the Robotics Steering Committee at U-M, she identified and capitalized on opportunities to advance robotics research at the university. In 2016, the U-M Board of Regents approved a $75 million building for research and teaching facilities, including laboratories for walking and flying robots and autonomous cars. She has written or co-authored more than 60 peer-reviewed papers, reports, book chapters and books, and holds a patent with two other researchers for logic controllers for machining systems.

Tilbury has been active in professional society and academic leadership positions, and has received numerous honors and awards for outstanding research and leadership. She has acted as a principal investigator on dozens of highly competitive federal awards, including an NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant in 1998. She has supervised dozens of graduate students and planned the Big 10 Women’s Workshops, a multi-university mentoring and networking workshop series for junior women faculty in engineering.

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