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May 17, 2024

Peter Savolainen to lead civil and environmental engineering

Interim chair named department chair

Michigan State University Research Foundation Professor Peter Savolainen has been named the chairperson of the MSU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, effective May 16, 2024. He has served as interim chair since Jan. 1, 2023. Engineering Dean Leo Kempel said he is pleased that Savolainen will continue to serve in a key leadership role in the college.

“Pete brings extensive experiences with large research and planning groups to our leadership team,” Kempel said. “He has done an excellent job leading the growth and expansion of civil and environmental engineering expertise at MSU and in the State of Michigan. We will continue to benefit from his skills and experiences as we focus on economic development in Michigan and beyond.”

Professional Headshot of Peter Savolainen
Peter Savolainen

Prior to his interim role, he served as Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, as well as founding chair of the CEE Awards Committee. He also chaired the College of Engineering Strategic Planning Committee and was selected as a 2022-2023 Academic Leadership Fellow, where his project focused on MSU’s transition to a new Student Perceptions of Learning Environments Policy (SPLEP) and an associated Student Perceptions of Learning Survey (SPLS).

He is currently participating as a Fellow in the Big 10 Academic Leadership Program.

Savolainen’s core research examines the fundamental nature of road user behavior, particularly how traffic safety and operations are influenced by driver behavior. His work has advanced fundamental knowledge as to how roadway design, traffic conditions, environmental factors, and various types of distractions affect the risk of crash involvement.

During his academic career, he has secured more than $22 million of externally funded research through competitive grant awards from agencies including Ford Motor Company, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2).

The quality of this research has been recognized by a series of best paper awards, as well as by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) with the 2020 Transportation Safety Council Edmund R. Ricker Award for leadership in the field of traffic safety. Savolainen is an associate editor of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Journal of Transportation Engineering, Part A: Systems. He also serves on the editorial advisory boards of Accident Analysis and Prevention and Analytic Methods in Accident Research, as well as on the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Standing Committee on Safety Performance and Analysis.

Savolainen came to MSU in 2018 from Iowa State University. He was a member of the civil and environmental engineering faculty at Wayne State University from 2006 to 2014. He received Ph.D. and master’s degrees in civil engineering at Purdue University and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Michigan Technological University. He is a registered professional engineer in the state of Michigan.

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Contact: Kelley Monterusso, Engineering Marketing and Communications