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Priscilla P. Nelson, PhD, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology, has a national and international reputation in geological and rock engineering, and the particular application of underground construction. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience, has mentored many students, and has more than 120 technical and scientific publications to her credit. Nelson served as provost of NJIT from 2005-2008.

Nelson was appointed to the faculty in civil engineering at The University of Texas at Austin from 1983 through 1996, rising from Assistant through Associate and Full Professor ranks. Her previous experience includes 11 years at the National Science Foundation (NSF) concluding her service as senior advisor to the director of NSF. During her time at NSF, she acted in many capacities, including program director for the Geotechnical Engineering program, director for Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education Program, director of the Civil and Mechanical Systems (CMS) Division, and as program manager for the NEES (Network for Earthquake EngineeringSimulation). She received the NEES Community Visionary Award in 2005.

Her honors and awards include Exxon Teaching Fellowships at The University of Texas at Austin (1985-1987), the Case Studies Award from the U.S. National Committee for Rock Mechanics (NAE, 1988), the Halliburton Education Foundation Award of Excellence (1991), the Basic Research Award from the U.S. National Committee for Rock Mechanics (NAE, 1993), and election to The Moles, an association of the heavy construction industry (1995), and induction into Tau Beta Pi as an Eminent Engineer (2007). At the National Science Foundation, she received the Director's Award for Integrative Collaboration four times, and she received the Director's Award for Meritorious Service in 1997. In 1999, she was appointed to the Senior Executive Service. Also in 1999, she received the Director's Award for Superior Accomplishment from the NSF.  In 2008, she received the Kenneth Andrew Roe Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies, and was honored in the Executive Women of New Jersey (EWNJ) Salute to the Policy Makers. In 2011, she received the Henry L. Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research from ASCE.

Nelson is a Distinguished Member  of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), former president of the Geo-Institute of ASCE, and a lifetime member, Fellow and first president of the American Rock Mechanics Association.  She is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and served as Chair of the Division of Engineering in AAAS.  In addition to these positions, she has many other professional affiliations including: Sigma Xi, the Underground Construction Association (SME), the Association of Engineering Geologists, the International Tunnelling Association, the Society of Women Engineers, the Association of Women Geoscientists, and the American Society for Engineering Education. She was a member of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, appointed by President Clinton in 1997 and reappointed in 2000. Nelson currently serves on the National Academy Committee on Underground Engineering for Sustainable Urban Development, and as an Advisor to the National Academy’s Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society.

She has served as a member of and liaison to several National Research Council boards and committees. Nelson has been a part of several major construction projects, including field engineering responsibilities during construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, and serving as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Texas for the Superconducting Super Collider project.

Nelson has a bachelor of science degree in geological sciences from the University of Rochester, and master's degrees in both geology (Indiana University) and structural engineering (University of Oklahoma). In 1983, she received her PhD in geotechnical engineering from Cornell University.

Last update: March 2, 2011

Topics: geological engineering, underground construction, civil engineering, environmental engineering