Carnegie Mellon University
Skip navigation and jump directly to page content

Feb. 18: Three From Carnegie Mellon Elected to Prestigious National Academy of Engineering


Teresa Thomas                   

Three From Carnegie Mellon Elected to
Prestigious National Academy of Engineering

PITTSBURGH—Three prominent members of the Carnegie Mellon University community — Jacobo Bielak, University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Tom M. Mitchell, University Professor of Computer Science and Machine Learning; and Paul Nielsen, director and CEO of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) — have been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering (NAE).
The NAE, along with the National Academy of Sciences and the other institutions that comprise the National Academies, advises the federal government on questions of policy in science and technology. NAE membership honors people who have made important contributions to engineering theory and practice, and who have demonstrated unusual accomplishments in pioneering new and developing fields of technology.
"Election to the National Academy of Engineering is a great honor. I want to commend Jacobo Bielak, Tom Mitchell and Paul Nielsen for achieving this recognition from their peers for their work in earthquake modeling, artificial intelligence and aerospace engineering. To date, 36 members of our community have been elected to the NAE. Their research, professional interests and contributions to education further establish the importance of engineering leadership to U.S. global competitiveness," said Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon.
bielakFor more than 15 years Bielak and his research team have collaborated with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center in developing and applying methodologies for modeling ground motion and structural performance in large basins in order to identify what can be done to prevent earthquake disasters.
"I am thrilled with this honor and recognition," said Bielak, who last year was named a University Professor, the highest distinction a faculty member can achieve at Carnegie Mellon. "I want to acknowledge the wonderful support for my work from both the College of Engineering and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. This is a truly collaborative university where innovation and creativity remain the hallmarks of success."
Bielak currently leads a four-year, $1.6 million National Science Foundation-supported project to develop tools for high fidelity, physics-based petascale simulations of entire seismic-prone regions.
"Jacobo Bielak is known for his pioneering work in creating three-dimensional models that can simulate how earthquakes impact buildings, bridges and other critical infrastructures," said NAE member Pradeep K. Khosla, the Philip and Marsha Dowd Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and dean of the College of Engineering. "Jacobo has made many outstanding contributions to his research field, and also to Carnegie Mellon in his teaching and advising of students, and this honor is well deserved."
Bielak joined Carnegie Mellon's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department in 1978. He completed his undergraduate degree from the National University of Mexico, and his master's degree in civil engineering from Rice University. He earned his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. Bielak is the recipient of the special Gordon Bell Prize Based on Innovation and also a member of the Mexican Academy of Engineering and the Mexican Academy of Sciences.
tommitchellA pioneer in artificial intelligence and machine learning, Mitchell is head of the School of Computer Science's (SCS) Machine Learning Department, the first of its kind when it was established in 2006. His research focuses on statistical learning algorithms for understanding natural language text and how the human brain represents information. His work with colleagues in the Psychology Department produced the first computational model to predict brain activation patterns associated with virtually any concrete noun, a step toward the goal of using brain scans to identify thoughts.
"Machine learning has emerged as one of the most powerful tools devised for extracting insightful information from real-world data, with applications ranging from medicine and finance to search engines," said Randal E. Bryant, dean of the SCS and a member of the NAE. "Tom Mitchell has been a driving force for the field of machine learning throughout his career, in the form of both technical contributions and leadership. Not only has he devised fundamental machine learning techniques, he has also demonstrated how machine learning can be used to determine what people are thinking from their brain scans and to reliably extract millions of facts from the worldwide web."
Mitchell earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering with a minor in computer science at Stanford University. He was named the Fredkin Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in 1999 and last year was named a University Professor at Carnegie Mellon. A former president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), he is a fellow of both the AAAI and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and winner of the 2007 AAAI Distinguished Service Award.
During his career with the United States Air Force, Nielsen led the work to completely restructure and upgrade the MILSTAR program, helped to shepherd the evolution of the aerospace sovereignty strategy for North America in the 21st century, and led the systems engineering and design phase of the national satellite program at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), including the specification and design of the satellite's sensors, control systems and on-board computers.
nielsenUnder Nielsen's leadership the SEI has expanded its technical and management programs for research and transition of software engineering, including new initiatives in networked systems survivability (CERT), software engineering process management, acquisition support, and research, technology and systems solutions. The SEI has grown to become an organization of more than 500 staff members with operating revenues of $120 million annually. Nielsen joined the SEI in 2004 after a distinguished 32-year career with the Air Force.
"Paul Nielsen is recognized for his pioneering work in systems engineering and design of advanced national satellite programs," said University Professor Emeritus and NAE member Angel Jordan, former provost of Carnegie Mellon and former director of the SEI. "Paul has made seminal technical contributions to aerospace engineering and also exercised exemplary leadership in a number of programs at the Air Force. He has helped to foster collaboration across the software and systems engineering communities, across the aerospace community and with the SEI's primary sponsor, the U.S. Department of Defense."
Nielsen is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has a master's degree in applied science and a Ph.D. in plasma physics from the University of California, Davis. He earned an MBA from the University of New Mexico.
Nielsen has received numerous military awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. He is a fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He is a past president of the AIAA.
The NAE elected 68 new members and nine foreign associates this year, bringing the total U.S. membership to 2,267 and the number of foreign associates to 196. For the complete list of Carnegie Mellon's NAE members, visit


Pictured above are Jacobo Bielak, University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Tom M. Mitchell, University Professor of Computer Science and Machine Learning; and Paul Nielsen, director and CEO of the Software Engineering Institute.