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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

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About Me

Dr. Priscilla Nelson came to NJIT from her position as senior advisor to the director of the National Science Foundation. She had previously served in that capacity for the NSF Directorate for Engineering. She has been at NSF since 1994, and has served as director of the Civil and Mechanical Systems (CMS) Division, senior engineering coordinator, program director for the Geotechnical Engineering program, and as program manager for the NEES (Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation) project that represents an $82 million federal investment in cyber infrastructure and earthquake experimentation equipment.

Dr. Nelson was formerly professor of Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. She has received three earned advanced degrees including master´s degrees in both geology (Indiana University) and structural engineering (University of Oklahoma). In 1983, she received her PhD from Cornell University in geotechnical engineering. Dr. Nelson has a national and international reputation in geological and rock engineering, and the particular application of underground construction. She has more than 15 years of teaching experience, has mentored many students, and has more than 120 technical and scientific publications to her credit.

Dr. Nelson is former president of the Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a lifetime member and first president of the American Rock Mechanics Association, and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the American Geological Institute. In addition to these, she has many other professional affiliations including: the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Moles (an organization of the heavy construction industry), the American Underground-Construction Association, the Association of Engineering Geologists, the International Tunnelling Association, and the American Society for Engineering Education. She has served as a member of and liaison to several National Research Council boards and committees. Dr. 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 US Department of Energy and the State of Texas for the Superconducting Super Collider project. She is a member of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, appointed by President Clinton in 1997 and reappointed in 2000.


  • Master´s degree in geology from iana University
  • Master´s degree in structural engineering from University of Oklahoma
  • PhD from Cornell University in geotechnical engineering (1983)

Honors and Awards

Her honors and awards include Exxon Teaching Fellowships at The University of Texas at Austin (1985-1987), the Case Studies Award from the US National Committee for Rock Mechanics (1988), the Haliburton Education Foundation Award of Excellence (1991), the Basic Research Award from the US National Committee for Rock Mechanics (1993), and election to The Moles, an association of the heavy construction industry (1995). At the National Science Foundation, she has received the Director´s Award for Integrative Collaboration three 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.