Eric Donnell named college's associate dean for research

December 7, 2022

By Mary Fetzer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Throughout Eric Donnell’s academic career, two things have been consistent: transportation and Penn State. It was at Penn State that Donnell earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering with a focus on transportation. And it was to Penn State that he returned for a career dedicated to teaching, research and leadership. Now, Donnell is ready for his next Penn State challenge. Effective Jan. 1, 2023, he will begin his tenure as associate dean for research in the Penn State College of Engineering.  

“The College of Engineering is fortunate to have a dedicated, lifelong Penn Stater at the helm of our research and graduate programs,” said Anthony Atchley, acting dean of the College of Engineering. “Dr. Donnell’s successes as a faculty member, researcher and leader of the Larson Transportation Institute (LTI) will enhance his impact on the strategic goals of the college and the University.”  

Currently the director of LTI, Donnell first joined the Penn State faculty as an assistant professor in Penn State’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2004. He was awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in 2010 and became a full professor in 2015. 

“I truly enjoyed going to school here,” Donnell said. “I received a terrific education from awesome instructors in civil engineering. When I saw the announcement that Penn State was hiring an assistant professor, I immediately applied and was fortunate to be hired into the position.” 

In August 2016, Donnell was named director of LTI, which is known for its research in the areas of transportation infrastructure, transportation system performance and advanced vehicle technologies, as well as its infrastructure-related educational and outreach activities. Donnell worked in LTI when he was a graduate student, and much of the research he has done as a faculty member has fallen under the administration of LTI.  

“The Larson Transportation Institute was looking for a new director,” Donnell said. “I was eager to take on a new challenge and felt that the technical focus of my education and research was an excellent fit.” 

Now, as the incoming associate dean for research for the College of Engineering, Donnell said that his first order of business is getting to know the departments, faculty and graduate students. 

“I want to build relationships with faculty and students in the College of Engineering,” he said. “I want to learn more about the research they are doing and find ways to support them. And I want to continue developing partnerships with stakeholders external to the college as well as throughout the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and across the nation.” 

Donnell will follow George Lesieutre, who has held the position since August 2016 and is returning to research in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. Donnell said he is looking forward to leveraging the college’s ongoing research successes to promote Penn State as a leader in the field of engineering. 

“I have always felt that Penn State, and in particular the College of Engineering, has such a tremendous breadth of expertise,” he said. “This role entails the administrative research piece as well as the graduate program educational piece. They’re tied together, and I want to truly understand who our stakeholders are and what our office can contribute to building and maintaining strong collaborations with them.” 


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College of Engineering Media Relations

“The College of Engineering is fortunate to have a dedicated, life-long Penn Stater at the helm of our research and graduate programs.” — Anthony Atchley, acting dean