Robotics leader Dawn Tilbury elected to National Academy of Engineering

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Dawn Tilbury, the Ronald D. and Regina C. McNeil Department Chair of Robotics, has been recognized with one of engineering’s greatest honors — election to the National Academy of Engineering.

The organization underscored her work in manufacturing network control and human-robot interaction. Tilbury’s smart-manufacturing work includes digital twins, managing the health of manufacturing systems and reconfiguring such systems. The announcement also named human-robot teaming.

A photo of Dawn Tilbury
Dawn Tilbury

Tilbury, the Herrick Professor of Engineering and a professor of mechanical engineering and of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, has also been a leader in many arenas in engineering.

Most recently at U-M, she led faculty from many engineering departments as well as from across campus to coalesce into a robotics graduate program, a Robotics Institute, a new building for robotics, and an undergraduate program and department.

Established in 2022, U-M’s robotics department is one of just six in the world, and the only one at a top 10 U.S. engineering school.

Tilbury also served as the assistant director for engineering at the National Science Foundation from 2017-21.

“Dawn Tilbury is a nationally recognized leader in control theory and its applications as well as a driving force behind Michigan Robotics,” said Steven Ceccio, interim dean of CoE. “This is one of the greatest distinctions in engineering. It highlights her excellence in robotics, at both fundamental and human-centered levels, as well as her influence on the field.”

Earlier in her career, Tilbury was a thrust area leader and testbed director in the Engineering Research Center for Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems. She directed the Ground Robotics Research Center, which studied the reliability of autonomous ground vehicles, and was the deputy director of the Automotive Research Center from 2011-13.

Beyond disciplinary research, Tilbury also has been a leader for women faculty members, co-organizing two Big 10 Women’s Workshops in 2010 and 2013. These workshops connected junior women faculty with both senior and peer mentors and cultivated collaboration, aiming to help more women thrive in the profession.

“I am honored and thrilled to be elected to the NAE,” Tilbury said. “Throughout my career at Michigan, in mechanical engineering and now robotics, I have had wonderful mentors both here at Michigan and worldwide.

“I’ve had opportunities to work with amazing students, great collaborators and industry partners to perform research that makes the world a better place. I look forward to continuing to serve the University of Michigan and the national engineering community.” 

This election brings U-M’s total NAE membership to 35.

Tilbury will be formally inducted, as part of her class of 114 new U.S. members, during the NAE’s annual meeting Sept. 29.

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