Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Deb McAvoy

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing


Neil D. Thomas Professor of Civil Engineering Gayle Mitchell

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

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Deb McAvoy appointed new chair of Department of Civil Engineering

Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Deb McAvoy has been appointed chair of the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology's Department of Civil Engineering, effective July 1. She succeeds Gayle Mitchell, who will be retiring after almost 27 years of service to Ohio University.

McAvoy, who joined the Russ College in 2007, has been nationally recognized for her work in transportation engineering since receiving a National Science Foundation grant to create one of only two driving simulators in Ohio — and one of only 40 such university and industry labs around the world.

She rejuvenated the Russ College's concrete canoe student team in 2009 and advises the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, leading the group on such service projects as upcycling cribs at OHIO's child development center into chalkboards and sensory tunnels.

"Dr. McAvoy represents the future of the Department of Civil Engineering and has the ideal set of skills and experience to continue and enhance the great work of the department under Dr. Mitchell's leadership," said Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin.

Prior to joining OHIO, McAvoy was a civil engineering consultant for eleven years and also the lead research engineer for the Wayne State University Transportation Research Group for three years. Her principal area of research interest is in highway safety, traffic engineering, traffic signal system optimization and progression, roadway design and human factors engineering. She has worked on projects for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP). As a part of these studies, she has conducted technical analyses for signal timing, congestion, crash, gap studies and has substantial experience in corridor progression and work zone safety analyses.

She is a registered professional engineer in Ohio and Michigan and is also certified as a Professional Traffic Operations Engineer (PTOE) through the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE).

Gayle Mitchell, chair of the department since 1995 and honored as both Russ Professor and Neil D. Thomas Professor of Civil Engineering, is also director of the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment (ORITE), which she helped establish in 1987.

"Dr. Mitchell has had two challenging roles in the Russ College for 18 years, as chair and institute director, and has excelled in both. She would not have exhibited such tenacity, persistence, and competence without a deep devotion to the department, the institute and the college," Irwin said.

Mitchell, who joined OHIO in 1986, contributed to teaching of undergraduate and graduate courses in the environmental area, as well as undergraduate basic engineering courses, and developed and presented workshops on water treatment, solid waste management, and erosion and sediment control.

She has conducted research on physical and chemical treatment of water and waste water, erosion and sediment control, wetlands, mitigation of storm water runoff, components of solid waste landfills, highway winter maintenance and application of probes for subsurface investigations. Author on more than seventy publications and director of almost 40 theses and dissertations, she has organized and chaired 15 different national, international and state conferences and holds one patent and two pending.  

Alumnus Ray Fogg Sr., BSCE '53, president and chief executive officer of Ray Fogg Building Methods and longtime member of the Russ College Board of Visitors and Department of Civil Engineering Advisory Board, said the civil engineering board will miss her guiding efforts.

"Dr. Mitchell was always prepared to give us the latest information and lead us in challenging discussion. She always gave leadership to the overall department and seized upon new opportunities for growth and excellence," he said. "She supported faculty development, was an innovator in the continued expansion of the department's research, and helped lead the department to prepare our graduates for the future," added Fogg, also a Foundation Board member emeritus.

A previous commissioner to the ABET, Inc., Engineering Accreditation Commission, her recent international activities have included working with the Council for Higher Education in Israel on engineering accreditation, Al-Anbar University in Iraq on curriculum and accreditation, and engineering universities in Nicaragua and Thailand on establishing research and graduate education relationships with the Russ College.

A registered Professional Engineer in Ohio and Mississippi, she will continue as director of ORITE on a part-time basis beginning this fall.