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Paul D. Nielsen, CEO and Director of Carnegie Mellon SEI, Named to Esteemed National Academy of Engineering

Press Release

Media Contact:
SEI Media Relations
Kelly Kimberland, APR
Tel: 412-268-4793

Pittsburgh, Pa., February 18, 2010—The Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute announced today that Paul D. Nielsen has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Nielsen joins Carnegie Mellon professors Jacobo Bielak, University Professor of civil and environmental engineering and Tom M. Mitchell, University Professor of computer science and machine learning who have also been named as NAE members. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) mission is to promote the technological welfare of the nation by marshaling the knowledge and insights of eminent members of the engineering profession.

Nielsen is being elected to NAE through its Aerospace Engineering section and his citation reads: “For leadership of the systems engineering and design of advanced national satellite programs, including restructuring and upgrades of MILSTAR.”

During his service with the U.S. Air Force, Nielsen worked in research and development. Nielsen led the work to 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 a national satellite program. He served his last four years in the Air Force as the commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory

As director of the SEI, Nielsen expanded the scope of all technical and management programs for research and transition of software engineering including the development and expansion of the CMMI Product Suite and new research initiatives in ultra-large-scale systems, computer security, and software architecture. He has led the growth of the SEI to 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.

“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.

Angel Jordan, former provost of Carnegie Mellon and former director of the SEI who nominated Nielsen for membership, says that Nielsen continues to serve his country through his leadership at the SEI. “Paul 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 of Science degree in applied science from the University of California, Davis, and an MBA from the University of New Mexico. Nielsen earned a Ph.D. in plasma physics from the University of California, Davis.

Nielsen has received numerous military awards including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. Nielsen is a fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).  He is a past president of AIAA and attended graduate school as a Hertz Foundation Fellow.

About the SEI
The Software Engineering Institute (SEI) is a U.S. Department of Defense federally funded research and development center operated by Carnegie Mellon University. Celebrating a quarter century of leadership, the SEI helps organizations make measured improvements in their engineering capabilities. The SEI is driving the future of complex systems through its cutting-edge research and development in software and systems engineering. For more information, visit the SEI website at