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Burcu Akinci, the Paul Christiano Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been appointed the new head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at Carnegie Mellon University, effective July 1, 2022. Akinci will succeed Dave Dzombak, Hamerschlag University Professor of CEE.

Akinci is an outstanding leader and researcher whose guidance as associate dean for research of the College for six years fostered a strong collaborative research environment and saw significant increases in the value of new research awards, year-over-year. Her lab is creating new models and tools to modernize construction and infrastructure management. As co-chair of CEE’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and founding chair of the ASCE Taskforce on Fostering Inclusive Academic Communities, she is committed to building a learning community where everyone feels welcome and has equal opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Akinci joined the CEE faculty 21 years ago, where her research interests have centered on the development of approaches to model and reason about the information-rich history of facilities for streamlining construction and facility management processes. She has two patents, one provisional patent, more than 75 refereed journal publications, and more than 100 conference publications in this area. Akinci has also served as PI or co-PI for more than $16 million in research grants from state and federal agencies, as well as from industry.

Akinci researches the utilization and integration of building information models with data capture technologies, like 3D imaging and embedded sensors, to create digital twins of construction projects and infrastructure operations, and to develop approaches that support proactive and predictive operations and management. Akinci is also part of a team working on NASA’s Habitats Optimized for Missions of Exploration (HOME) project, where they’re helping to create a smart habitat that can process its own data and pass recommendations on to robotic systems or astronauts. 

During her time as associate dean for research for the College, Akinci led the development of the college’s strategic research vision. Under her leadership, the Engineering Research Accelerator was created to provide an integrated, coordinated, and college-wide set of services for research incubation, acceleration, and support. She also helped create the moonshot initiative, funding faculty groups to create capabilities within the college that can lead to large, innovative, externally-funded projects, and fostering interdisciplinary research in key areas. Over just four years, Akinci helped foster growth in value of new research awards in the college by more than 65 percent, from $64 million in 2016 to $107 million in 2020. 

Akinci is an elected member of the National Academy of Construction, member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE), and American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS), and is a board member of the International Association for Automation and Robotics in Construction (IAARC) and of the National Academies’ Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment. Akinci is also co-founder and chief innovation officer of start-up Lean-FM, which received a 2017 Innovation Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times. The company develops and demonstrates the feasibility of using big data analytics and machine learning to transform facilities operations and maintenance decisions. 

She earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Middle East Technical University; master’s degree in business from Bilkent University; and her master’s degree and doctoral degree in civil and environmental engineering from Stanford University.

The College appreciates the efforts of the CEE Head Search Committee members, especially Beth Dickey who served as the committee chair, for doing a remarkable job in this search. We also thank committee members Mario Berges, Kaushik Dayal, Katherine Flanigan, Paulina Jaramillo, Rachel Molé, Sean Qian, Cathy Schaefer, Pingbo Tang, with Randi Senchur providing administrative support.