Harris is an expert in infrastructure systems and leader in research that aims to improve built environments

Devin K. Harris, a civil engineering professor, is the new chair of the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. He brings extensive research accomplishments in what researchers call “built environments,” which refers to the physical places where people live and interact, such as homes, office buildings and streets.

“Devin is a gifted scholar who is passionate about collaborative research and the potential of technology to transform society’s infrastructure,” said UVA Engineering Dean Jennifer L. West. “He also cares deeply about mentoring students and helping them reach their potential. I am thrilled he will lead this vibrant department.”

Harris joined UVA Engineering as an assistant professor in 2012. He serves as director of UVA’s Center for Transportation Studies, and has been faculty director of UVA Engineering’s Clark Scholars Program since its inception in 2018. He served as assistant department chair since 2021.

Prior to joining UVA, Harris was an assistant professor of civil engineering at the Michigan Technological University from 2008 to 2012. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, went to work for Exxon, and then earned his master’s and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech.  

Devin K. Harris

Devin K. Harris, professor of civil engineering, has been appointed chair of UVA Engineering’s Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, home of the civil, environmental and systems engineering programs. (photo courtesy of Dan Addison, University Communications)

“I am excited to build upon what has been a period of strong growth for civil, environmental and systems engineering at UVA,” Harris said. “And I look forward to leading our department’s faculty, staff and students toward our mission to envision people-centered engineering solutions through world-class research and education.”

As the director of the Center for Transportation Studies - which is the focal point for education, research and service in transportation engineering at the University - Harris oversees research support services as well as transportation-focused education and training activities throughout Virginia. Under his leadership, the center collaborated with the Virginia Department of Transportation to launch a 12-course curriculum path to a master’s in engineering degree from UVA.

Also, with a UVA team and in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Transportation, he spearheaded research focused on computer imaging to help spot bats under bridges and overpasses. The bats become displaced from the construction and relocate to other bridges, creating an ecological cycle that needs to be addressed for future bridge construction.

“We have to be cognizant of the impacts of our built environment, which is again, very far reaching,” Harris said in a news story about the research project.

As director of the Clark Scholars Program, Harris has been dedicated to providing education and financial opportunities to exceptional students from populations traditionally underserved in STEM fields. Hosting up to 20 scholars each year, the program met a major milestone this year when 14 inaugural scholars graduated with their bachelor’s degrees from UVA Engineering.

Reflections from Members of UVA's Clark Scholars Program

Harris is faculty director of UVA’s Clark Scholars Program, which is one of ten programs at top engineering institutions, founded through the A. James Clark Foundation. Learn more about the UVA scholars.

In addition to overseeing his own lab, Infrastructure Simulation, Sensing and Evaluation Lab, Harris is a faculty member of UVA Engineering’s Link Lab for cyber-physical systems. His research and teaching focus on large-scale infrastructure systems, particularly condition monitoring and system performance. He leverages image-based measurement techniques, simulation, visualization and data analytics in the areas of structural health monitoring, smart cities and digital twins.

Harris brings a full resume of honors and accomplishments to his new appointment at UVA. He received the Delmar L. Bloem Distinguished Service Award and Young Member Award for Professional Achievement from the American Concrete Institute. He also received the Outstanding Reviewer Award from the American Society of Civil Engineering’s Journal of Bridge Engineering.

In addition to being an IAspire Leadership Academy Fellow, Harris is a member of the American Concrete Institute, American Society of Civil Engineers, International Digital Image Correlation Society and American Society for Engineering Education.

Harris succeeds Brian Smith, who has served as department chair since 2018.