University of Vermont

Donna Rizzo Appointed Dorothean Chair

donna rizzo

Dr. Donna Rizzo, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the School of Engineering, has been appointed as the Dorothean Chair in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.

"On behalf of the entire college, I offer my congratulations to Dr. Rizzo," said CEMS Dean Luis Garcia. "Recognition from one’s peers is the highest honor and this is a well-deserved appointment,” he further added.

The Dorothean Chair was established in the 1990’s by Stuart “Red” Martin in honor of his wife, Dorothy. The original bequest stated that the holder, “…will be an outstanding individual in the field of engineering or related science whose work promises to be significant in advancing the field.” It was further stated that, “the Dorothean Professor would be a major scholar doing research and working with graduate students … (with) responsibility for teaching undergraduates in a basic engineering course.”  

After a successful public venture working to help bring engineering technologies into the field, Rizzo joined UVM in the Fall of 2002 and has published nearly 40 peer reviewed articles and book chapters. Her work focuses on the development and deployment of computational tools to improve understanding of mankind’s impact on the environment and improve stewardship of natural resources. Specific applications include using neural networks to do the following: develop maps of discrete spatially-distributed fields; predict local disease risk indicators from multi-scale weather, land and crop data; image and analyze the parameter structure of subcutaneous connective tissue in humans; predict the shrink/swell of soils; and develop a watershed classification system used in hierarchical artificial neural networks for diagnosing watershed impairment at multiple scales.

In addition to numerous grants including a prestigious NSF award for “Modeling disease transmission using spatial mapping of vector-parasite genetics and vector feeding patters,” Dr. Rizzo has been the tireless steward of the highly successful Barrett Undergraduate Research Program which has enabled undergraduate students in CEMS the opportunity to do research prior to entering a graduate program. 

"I was honored to be nominated and, given the strength of my colleagues, I’m humbled to be chosen," says Rizzo, who also stated that recognition for her research and educational contributions as they apply to engineering and its scientific underpinnings is, “very special to me."

Dr. Rizzo will hold the chair until the end of academic year 2019-2020. During her tenure as the Dorothean Chair, she will receive a stipend to support her graduate program. The Chair was previously held by Dr. Sean Wang from the Department of Computer Science.