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Three faculty members in the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University have been elected 2022 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Burcu Akinci, Jonathan Cagan, and Jeanne VanBreisen are among the 508 scientists, engineers, and innovators who have been recognized for their distinguished achievements by the world’s largest scientific society.

A tradition dating back to 1874, election as an AAAS Fellow is a lifetime honor. The newly elected AAAS Fellows will be honored for their achievements this spring at a celebration in Washington D.C.

Burcu Akinci

Akinci has been recognized for distinguished contributions to data and model-driven construction and infrastructure management, which is done through the generation and utilization of digital twins for proactive and predictive decision-making. She is the head and a professor of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her lab is creating new models and tools to modernize construction and infrastructure management.

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.

Akinci is an outstanding leader and researcher who draws on her previous experience in roles, including associate dean for research of the College of Engineering, co-chair of civil engineering’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and founding chair of the ASCE Taskforce on Fostering Inclusive Academic Communities. Elected in 2021, she currently serves on the National Academy’s board on Infrastructure and the Connected Environment. 

Jonathan Cagan

Cagan has been recognized for distinguished contributions to the field of design theory and methodology, particularly as it applies to transformational product design, innovation, and automation. His research merges AI, machine learning, and optimization methods with cognitive science problem solving. He works on topics ranging from hybrid human/AI teams, to biomechanical systems, to user-centered design and integrated product development.

Cagan’s career spans collaborative and innovative work in education, research, and industry. He is the head and a professor of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Cagan served as interim dean of the College of Engineering and special advisor to the provost, and co-founded and co-directed the Integrated Innovation Institute. He is a Fellow in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and was awarded with the ASME Design Theory and Methodology, Design Automation, and Ruth and Joel Spira Outstanding Design Educator Awards.

Jeanne VanBriesen

VanBriesen has been recognized for outstanding contributions to the field of environmental engineering, particularly in modeling biodegradation of chemical mixtures and assessing the role of energy systems on drinking water. VanBriesen is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Engineering & Public Policy. She is currently serving at the U.S. National Science Foundation as the director of the Division for Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) within the Engineering Directorate. Her research is in environmental systems, including urban water system sustainability and the built environment water cycle, and the energy-water nexus and watershed decision making.

VanBriesen has received numerous awards and her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Colcom Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Packard Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance. She has served on the U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board and the National Science Foundation Engineering Directorate Advisory Committee. She has been an officer of the Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences (CUAHSI) and the Ohio River Basin Consortia for Research and Education.

Pictured above, left to right, Jonathan Cagan, Burcu Akinci, and Jeanne VanBriesen.