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Fisher Chosen as New MIE Head

The search committee looking for the new head of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department has chosen MIE Professor Donald Fisher to replace the departing Mario Rotea. “I am delighted to inform you that Professor Donald L. Fisher has accepted the position of Department Head in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, effective July 1, 2009,” announced Dean Mike Malone. “Dr. Fisher has a distinguished record of research, teaching, and service over more than two decades on the faculty at UMass Amherst.” As the director of the UMass Amherst Human Performance Laboratory, a facility with some of the most advanced driving simulators in the country, Dr. Fisher and his team have completed a wide variety of research projects, including studying the effects on drivers of distractions such as cell phones and text messaging. In the past year, Dr. Fisher has created a large amount of good publicity for the college by talking about his research on ABC World News, the NBC Today Show, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.

Another recent project completed by Dr. Fisher’s team was creating a free downloadable training software called the Risk Awareness and Perception Training (RAPT) Program that promises to help solve the far-reaching and deadly problem of teaching new drivers how, when, and where to anticipate potentially fatal hazards.

Since joining the College of Engineering in the fall of 1982, Fisher has been honored with the Outstanding Senior Faculty Award in 2000, the Minority Engineering Program Recognition Award in 1997, the Outstanding Advisor Service Award in 1996, the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in 1986, and the Dow Outstanding Young Faculty Award in 1985. 

He received his bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College, master’s degree from Harvard, and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He has experience both in private industry and the federal government. Professor Fisher’s current research interests are in transportation and patient safety. His research has been supported by grants from the federal (NSF, NIH, NHTSA, NASA, NIOSH, CDC), state (Massachusetts Highway Department, Governor’s Highway Safety Bureau), and regional (New England Transportation Consortium, New England University Transportation Center) governments, private and public foundations, and private industry.

He is on the editorial board of the leading journals in human factors, has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences Human Factors Committee, and is editing the Handbook of Driving Simulation for Engineering, Medicine and Psychology.

While at UMass Amherst, Professor Fisher has taken an active interest in undergraduate education, helping to initiate and administer a campus-wide summer research program for undergraduates, serving as the Undergraduate Program Director for a number of years, growing the service learning opportunities for undergraduates in probability and statistics, and obtaining NSF and General Electric Foundation funding for programs to improve undergraduate engineering education.

He is heavily involved in graduate education as well, having supervised some 30 master’s degree students, 15 doctoral students, and several postdoctoral fellows while also serving as the Graduate Program Director. In addition, he took an active lead in a major NSF initiative involving some 10 different universities to increase diversity among graduate students. (June 2009)