UC Davis Appoints New Dean for Engineering

Richard Corsi Comes Home to Davis from Portland State University

Quick Summary

  • Earned M.S., Ph.D. in civil (environmental) engineering at UC Davis
  • He’s a dean at Portland and former department chair at UT Austin
  • Studies inhalation exposure (including COVID-19) in buildings

The University of California, Davis today (July 2) named Richard Corsi, a dean and professor of engineering and computer science from Portland State University, as the new dean of the College of Engineering (COE).

Richard Corsi headshot
Richard Corsi

“We are extremely fortunate to welcome Dr. Corsi as the new dean of the College of Engineering,” said Mary Croughan, UC Davis provost and executive vice chancellor. “His exceptional talents as an engineer and a leader, and his dedication to world-class education and research for the public benefit, make him an ideal individual to lead the college.”

Since 2018, Corsi has been the H. Chik M. Erzurumlu Dean of the Maseeh College of Engineering at Portland State. Among his many accomplishments in that position, he refocused every department to better support the college’s strategic vision; grew the faculty; increased the number of undergraduate scholarships; created new graduate student and faculty fellowships; developed and implemented a detailed strategy to grow faculty diversity; strengthened alumni relations and public outreach; and enabled a 250% increase in philanthropic giving in his first year.

He will officially become COE dean on September 15th. He replaces Jeffery C. Gibeling, who has served as interim dean since January 2021. A former department chair in COE, as well as a former vice provost of Graduate Education and dean of Graduate Studies, Gibeling has led the college during a critical phase of the pandemic. “Jeff deserves our great thanks,” said Provost Croughan. “Having a leader of his wisdom and experience at the helm of the college has been invaluable. He has not only kept the college on track but moved it forward. Moreover, Jeff has kindly agreed to assist with the transition in leadership during September and October, after which we wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement.”

Education and Career

Corsi earned his B.S. from Humboldt State University in environmental resources engineering and both his M.S. and Ph.D. in civil (environmental) engineering from UC Davis. From 1994 to 2018, he was on the faculty of the University of Texas, Austin, serving as chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering from 2013 to 2017. Since 2018, and concurrent with his position at Portland State, he has been emeritus chair and professor of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering at Austin.

Corsi and his research team, including 120 supervised students, have published nearly 270 peer-reviewed papers stemming from 70 funded research projects.

His early-career research focused on toxic chemical emissions from municipal and industrial wastewater. He developed the first version of the Bay Area Sewage Toxics Emissions (BASTE) model, a novel model that is adaptable to all wastewater treatment plant configurations. Later, his team was the first to predict and then confirm toxic hot spots associated with chemical emissions from public sewer systems.

For the past 25 years, his team has focused on research related to indoor chemistry and reducing inhalation exposures of building occupants to harmful air pollutants of both outdoor and indoor origin. Areas of investigation include the novel use of building materials to remove or sequester pollutants in buildings, the chemistry of building decontamination, and methods and benefits of reducing U.S. population exposure to ozone inside of residential, office, school, and long-term health-care buildings. During the past 18 months, he has been actively engaged in national discussions on layered risk reduction to reduce transmission of COVID-19 by aerosol particles inside buildings.

Recognition

Corsi’s contributions to society, his field, and his institutions have been recognized in many awards and honors. Among them, he received the Certification of Eminence from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (2007); the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal (DEAM) from the College of Engineering, University of California, Davis (inducted February 2016); and the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award from the University of Texas System (2016). At Austin, he held the prestigious Joe J. King Chair in Engineering (2016-18).

Corsi is a member and immediate past president of the Academy of Fellows of the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate. His research has been cited or featured in many leading media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, NPR, Business Week, National Geographic, and CDC’s The Nature of Things, among others.

Becoming COE Dean ‘A Rare Opportunity’

Corsi considers his becoming COE dean “a rare opportunity.” He is thrilled to be able “to come home” to the institution where he earned his M.S. and Ph.D. He has many wonderful memories of his years at UC Davis and looks forward to being on campus again and interacting with the campus community. But his enthusiasm for his new position goes well beyond that.

He is excited about joining an institution and college that are dedicated to excellence and creativity in education. “I care deeply about teaching and mentoring, both in and out of the classroom,” he explained. “I strive to inspire students, to give them the confidence and entrepreneurial spirit to leverage fundamental science and engineering principles in their work. This will enable them to effectively explore, innovate, and meet challenges of all magnitudes, from everyday to grand.”

Corsi is drawn also to the university and college’s deep commitment to benefiting the world. COE does this in part by tackling today’s most urgent local and global challenges in such areas as water, energy, and the environment. “I strongly believe in the importance of public service,” he said, “particularly where we can make a significant difference.” The college, he notes, has “a formidable record of playing a leadership role in these very areas and is extraordinarily well positioned to grow that role in the coming years.”

“But with UC Davis,” he adds, “there are so many things to admire.” He cites the university’s emphasis on supporting the success of students; opportunities for hands-on and career-oriented learning experiences; a long tradition of community-engaged learning and scholarship; a campus community that values diversity, equity, and inclusion; an emphasis on innovative, often multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and research; and UC Davis’ “wonderful culture that is world-class, international, and small-town friendly at the same time.”

“Dr. Corsi is not an Aggie only by virtue of his two UC Davis degrees,” remarked Provost Croughan. “His innovative spirit, commitment to bettering lives, and love for his alma mater make him an Aggie through and through. I know he will inspire and be inspired by students, colleagues, alumni, and friends at the College of Engineering and across our larger university community.”

UC Davis College of Engineering

Founded in 1962, the UC Davis College of Engineering produces well-rounded engineering graduates who value its interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach to teaching and learning. Known for innovative, research-based solutions to complex problems and challenges, it has special research strengths in biomedicine; climate; food, energy, and water; coffee science; transportation; and space exploration. Since its founding, the college has graduated more than 29,000 engineering and computer science students. Today, it has approximately 4,500 undergraduate students and 1,000 M.S. and Ph.D. students, as well as 220 faculty.

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