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Jon Cagan, the George Tallman and Florence Barrett Ladd Professor in Engineering, will be the new head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MechE) at Carnegie Mellon University, effective November 1, 2022. The appointment follows a rigorous and extensive international search. Cagan succeeds Allen Robinson, director of CMU-Africa and the Raymond J. Lane Distinguished University Professor.

Since joining the faculty in 1990, Cagan has made a tremendous impact in research and education with expertise in engineering design automation and methods. This includes merging AI, machine learning, and optimization methods with cognitive science problem solving. He has also successfully transferred his research to industrial practice. Cagan embodies advanced collaboration, having worked with engineers, psychologists, neuro-scientists, marketers, designers, and architects in his work.

In the classroom, Cagan invites his students to think outside of the box and push traditional boundaries with new courses like Integrated Product Development, and product innovation courses, looking at grand challenges and future emerging (Fourth Industrial Revolution) technologies. He aims to prepare the next generations of mechanical engineers to solve problems through innovative teamwork and multidisciplinary approaches. The university has recognized his contributions by honoring him with the Robert E. Doherty Award for Sustained Contributions to Excellence in Education. 

Cagan has demonstrated strong leadership skills by serving the College of Engineering in many roles: as its interim dean, the associate dean for graduate and faculty affairs, and the associate dean for strategic initiatives where he focused in part on enhancing Carnegie Mellon’s Silicon Valley campus. In 2013, he co-led the College’s strategic planning process to set the stage for new initiatives. He also co-founded the Integrated Innovation Institute.

Among other efforts, Cagan co-led the first strategic plan for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the college and its implementation, including the formation of the new dual Ph.D. partnership with Howard University. As a mentor and advocate, he has played an integral role in the revision of core faculty and student policies to better serve and support our community. He also aided the university in academic planning through the COVID pandemic.

A Fellow in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Cagan has earned the organization’s Design Theory and Methodology, Design Automation, and Ruth and Joel Spira Outstanding Design Educator awards. He has authored several books, more than 300 publications, and is an inventor on multiple patents.

He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Rochester and received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

“This is an exciting time to guide and support the next generation of innovative education and research in Mechanical Engineering,“ Cagan said. “I’m honored to accept this role and work with an incredible community of faculty, staff, and students.”

The college appreciates the efforts of the MechE Head Search Committee members for their diligent and thorough work, especially Keith Cook who served as the committee chair. We thank Dorothy Antonucci, Mark Bedillion, Diana Beltran, Sarah Bergbreiter, Eni Halilaj, Chris Hertz, Aaron Johnson, Levent Burak Kara, Carmel Majidi, Rahul Panat, and Rebecca Taylor, with Allison McLachlan providing administrative support.