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After 34 years as a faculty member and administrator in the College of Engineering, Annette Jacobson will retire from Carnegie Mellon University in June. Conrad Zapanta, a teaching professor and associate department head in the Biomedical Engineering Department, will become the new associate dean of Undergraduate Studies, effective July 1, 2022.

In her 12 years as associate dean, Jacobson has led the Undergraduate Studies team responsible for recruiting and advising students, delivering first-year student programming, and overseeing general education requirements in the college.

“Every year, the incoming students benefited greatly from her wisdom and advice to remain open to exploring and considering the many opportunities available to engineers,” said Bill Sanders, dean of the College of Engineering.

Every year, the incoming students benefited greatly from her wisdom and advice to remain open to exploring and considering the many opportunities available to engineers.

Bill Sanders, Dean, College of Engineering

In addition, Jacobson managed college-wide activities for curriculum development and for assessment related to accreditation for ABET and Middle States. Her guidance during the last ABET and Middle States reviews was outstanding.

During her unique and exceptionally productive career, she served in numerous roles, including teaching professor of chemical engineering; director of the Colloids, Polymers, and Surfaces (CPS) program; and advocate and organizer of the College of Engineering K-12 STEM outreach programs.

Once while planning an outreach event for local Boy Scouts, even Jacobson was surprised when a group of Ph.D. students eagerly volunteered to help her at the outreach event. They had all been eagle scouts—the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)—and jumped at the chance to share their engineering knowledge with the scouts.

And Jacobson knew that her outreach programs also benefited the college students who she recruited to help with outreach.

“Our students have to learn how to explain complex engineering concepts to people with less technical knowledge. Participation in outreach events with young students and educators is a great way for them to develop those communications skills,” said Jacobson.

Annette has been a valued member of the college of engineering leadership team. Her contributions and positive attitude will be missed by many.

Bill Sanders, Dean, College of Engineering

Sanders said, “In each of these roles, Annette did a remarkable job of bringing people and resources together to produce new and better opportunities for students, staff, faculty, and members of our local community.”

As director of the Colloids, Polymers and Surfaces program, which celebrates 49 years this year, she was instrumental in the renovation of the PPG Industries CPS lab that serves as a flexible shared discovery space where students, faculty, and industry professionals learn characterization techniques for nanomaterials and macromolecules in lab courses, train on specialized equipment, and conduct research.

She is also an accomplished instructor, advisor, and researcher. She has taught graduates and undergraduates and advised master’s students in the Department of Chemical Engineering. She has conducted research in surfactant micellization in aqueous media; applications of solubilization in complex fluids; and characterization methods for nanoparticles and macromolecules. Annette also successfully sought research funding, published numerous papers, obtained three patents, and presented at seminars, conferences, and symposia on both chemical engineering and higher education topics.

She recently worked with campus partners to establish an additional major in engineering and art for engineering students and the bachelor’s in engineering studies and arts for non-engineering majors as well. She was also involved in the creation and oversight of the new university-wide bachelor’s degree in general studies.

Jacobson earned both her B.S. and Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and worked as a senior research engineer for PPG Industries before joining CMU. Among the many awards and honors that she has received was the Academic Advising Award.

She plans to spend time gardening, hiking, and travelling, and she looks forward to spending more time with family and friends.

The College leadership appreciates the efforts of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Search Advisory Committee members, especially Alaine Allen who served as the committee chair, for doing a remarkable job in this search. Additional committee members include Kurt Larsen, Dave Dzombak, Eva Mergner, Diana Haidar, Jim Bain, Lisa Porter, and Bridget Elliott and Autumn Riddle who provided administrative support.