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Donald Leo named dean of UGA College of Engineering

Donald Leo

Athens, Ga. – Donald Leo, a Virginia Tech vice president and former associate dean, has been named dean of the University of Georgia College of Engineering.

Leo is a professor of mechanical engineering and vice president and executive director of the National Capital Region operations of Virginia Tech. He previously served as associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Virginia Tech College of Engineering.

The appointment was announced by Jere Morehead, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. The deans of the 17 schools and colleges at UGA report to the provost.

“This is a critically important position, not only for the University of Georgia but for the state of Georgia,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “The College of Engineering at UGA was established last year to meet the clear need for more Georgia-trained engineers. I am confident that Dr. Leo is the right leader at this time for our engineering program.”

Leo’s appointment is effective July 1.

“Dr. Leo’s experience as an associate dean of one of the nation’s largest and most well-regarded engineering programs makes him well-positioned to lead the UGA College of Engineering,” Morehead said. “His success in growing the research enterprise at Virginia Tech while creating partnerships with government and industry underscores the institution’s land-grant mission of service to the state, and he will play a similar role in enhancing UGA’s research and outreach as a land-grant institution.”

The search committee was chaired by Svein Oie, dean of the College of Pharmacy, and was assisted by the search firm Witt/Kieffer.

As vice president and executive director of the National Capital Region operations of Virginia Tech, Leo integrates and coordinates the activities of Virginia Tech in the greater Washington, D.C. area. From 2007-2011, he served as associate dean for research and graduate studies for the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, which has approximately 8,000 students and whose undergraduate program is ranked 15th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

As associate dean, he led Virginia Tech in its collaboration with the University of Virginia and the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the founding of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing. The applied research center accelerates the transition of research from the laboratory to commercial use by pooling resources to pursue university research authorized by member companies. The public-private partnership is an important economic development activity in the state and currently has 15 corporate members from five nations.

From 2005-2007 and in conjunction with his position at Virginia Tech, Leo served as a program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a unit of the Department of Defense, where he created programs in the field of biologically inspired materials and systems and managed a portfolio of approximately $50 million in interdisciplinary research.

Leo joined the faculty of Virginia Tech in 1998. His research focuses on so-called “smart materials” that respond to external stimuli, and he has served as principal investigator on 50 research grants and contracts with approximately $12 million in extramural funding. He has authored or co-authored more than 200 research publications and recently founded the Biomolecular Materials and Systems Laboratory, which explores how biological materials and signaling processes can be used to develop engineering devices.

He is the author of the textbook “Engineering Analysis of Smart Material Systems” (John Wiley and Sons, 2007), which is used at the senior undergraduate and graduate level at several colleges and universities. He created a course on active materials and smart structures that is based on his textbook and continues to be taught at Virginia Tech.

Leo is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a recipient of the Virginia Tech Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research and in 2004 was named Outstanding Recent Alumnus of the highly ranked University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Aerospace Engineering Department.

He earned a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Buffalo. He earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I would like to thank President Adams and Provost Morehead for the unique opportunity to be the first permanent dean of the College of Engineering,” Leo said. “It will be a privilege to lead the development of a new engineering college at a top-ranked public institution, and I look forward to working with the students, staff and faculty to grow the college and build upon the considerable strengths of the University of Georgia.”

The creation of the College of Engineering was unanimously approved by the University Council in April 2012. The college is organized without departmental boundaries to promote advanced studies at the interface of disciplines and to prepare students for careers devoted to the integration of discoveries from multiple fields. For more information about the UGA College of Engineering, see