Major General (Retired) Paul D. Nielsen PhD

Hertz Fellow: Major General (Retired) Paul D. Nielsen PhD

University of California, Davis/Livermore

Area of Study

Applied Physics

Fellowship Years

1978 - 1981

CEO and Director, Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute

Paul D. Nielsen, PhD, is the CEO and director of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University. Paul's leadership of the SEI started on August 1, 2004. The SEI is sponsored by the Department of Defense and performs research across the broad range of software engineering--architecture, product lines, performance critical systems, integration of software intensive systems, process improvement, measurement and analysis, and network security. The SEI works with researchers and software practitioners around the world to improve the skills and productivity of the software community.

Prior to his arrival, he served in the U.S. Air Force. He retired from the Air Force as a major general after 32 years of distinguished service. Nielsen relinquished his command of the Air Force Research Laboratory on June 25, 2004. For over four years, he managed the Air Force's science and technology budget of more than $3 billion annually and directed the efforts of the laboratory's 8,700 men and women at ten sites across the United States. He also was the Air Force's technology executive officer.

Nielsen entered the Air Force in 1972 as a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He served at three product centers and three laboratories, including assignments at the Secretary of the Air Forces Office of Special Projects and the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As a senior officer, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, commanded the Air Force's Rome Laboratory, and was the operations chief of the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center. He was the director of plans for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the vice commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center.

As an undergrad, Nielsen received a BS in physics and mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and as a Hertz Fellow, he received an MS in applied science, and a PhD in plasma physics from the University of California, Davis. Moreover, Nielsen obtained an MBA from the University of New Mexico, and also graduated from the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, DC.

Nielsen was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2010 and is also a fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). His military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, and the Legion of Merit. He is currently serving as a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. Nielsen served on the board of directors of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation from 2005 until his term ended in 2015. Since 2016, Nielsen has been serving on the Hertz Fellowship and Program Council.