Feature Stories

Department Chair Bob Gilbert Elected to National Academy of Engineering

Gilbert Bob

The National Academy of Engineering has elected Robert B. Gilbert, professor and chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at The University of Texas of Austin, as a new member of the prestigious academy.

Election to the academy is among the highest professional distinctions for an engineer. Membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research and practice, including pioneering of new and developing fields of technology and making major advancements in engineering. In all, 87 new members and 18 foreign members were elected into the academy in 2020.

“Throughout his career, Bob has been one of the nation’s foremost geotechnical engineers, playing a crucial role in assessing the performance of flood protection systems, offshore oil platforms and hazardous waste containment projects,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. “In addition to his outstanding contributions in research, he has been a passionate supporter of the students in his department and programs that engage our students to support the Austin community. We are extremely proud of his many accomplishments and this well-deserved honor.”

During the past decade, 15 UT Austin professors have been recognized for their accomplishments with election into the National Academy of Engineering, and the university has 45 current and retired members.

In addition to Gilbert, three Cockrell School alumni have also been elected to the academy this year: Robert O. Ambrose, Sara N. Ortwein, who earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and Amarpreet Singh Sawhney.

About the four new members representing the Cockrell School of Engineering:

Robert B. Gilbert is chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering and holds the Brunswick-Abernathy Regents Professorship in Soil Dynamics & Geotechnical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. He was recognized by the NAE for advancing the use of reliability analyses, risk assessment and risk-based decision making for complex engineering projects. He is a past recipient of the Norman Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Regents Award for Outstanding Teaching from The University of Texas System, the Outstanding Civilian Service Award from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and numerous other honors. He received a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering, all from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Robert O. Ambrose (Ph.D. ME 1991) is chief of the Software, Robotics and Simulation Division at the NASA Johnson Space Center. He was recognized by the NAE for advances in dexterous space robotics and leadership in human-centered teaming in space operations. Among many professional honors, he is a past recipient of the Outstanding Leadership Medal and the Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal from NASA, as well as recognition as a Distinguished Mechanical Engineer by the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering at UT Austin. He received a B.S. and M.S. from Washington University in St. Louis and a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin, all in mechanical engineering.

Sara N. Ortwein (B.S. CE 1980) is a former president of XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, and a longtime executive in the company. She was recognized by the NAE for engineering leadership in the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry. She is a distinguished member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, a Distinguished Engineering Graduate of the Cockrell School of Engineering and a recipient of the Breakthrough Leader in the Field of Energy award from the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce. She received a B.S. in civil engineering from The University of Texas at Austin.

Amarpreet Singh Sawhney (M.S. ChE 1989, Ph.D. ChE 1992) is president and chairman of Instylla Inc. and chairman of Ocular Therapeutix Inc. He was recognized by the NAE for the development of innovative medical devices that have affected millions of patients. He has been named a Champion of Change by the White House and an Outstanding American by Choice by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. He is the recipient of numerous awards, such as the Lifetime Achievement Award for Entrepreneurship from TiE Boston and the Product Innovation Award from Frost and Sullivan. He received a B.T. from IIT Delhi and an M.S. and Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin, all in chemical engineering.