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Nilsson, Tonya


Tonya Nilsson is a full-time lecturer in the Department of Civil Engineering at Santa Clara University. Previously, she was on the faculty at California State University, Chico where she was a tenured Associate Professor.  Dr. Nilsson has her Professional License and has worked in industry on structural engineering projects.  She received her Bachelors in Architectural Engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 1991, her Masters in Structural Engineering from Stanford University in 1993, and her Ph.D. in Structural Mechanics from University of California at Davis in 2002.  Her Ph.D. research focused on the development of new material properties to model crack propagation on ductile materials.  Dr. Nilsson has a strong interest in engineering education and worked for eight years with ASCE's ExCEED Teaching Workshops to train other engineering faculty on effective teaching methods and served for four years on the national ASCE, Committee on Faculty Development.  She is also a member of  School of  Engineering's NSF "Engage" team.


Ph.D. University of California, Davis '02
M.S. Stanford University '93
B.S. Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo '91

Current Research Interests

Dr. Nilsson maintains a strong interest in pedagogy in the classroom and the development of hands-on, interactive learning methods in Strength of Materials.  She is also interested in construction methods to mitigate damage during seismic and high-wind events in structures built with non-conventional materials and construction methods.


  • First recipient of the student awarded Outstanding College of Engineering Community Member -  Fall 2005 at California State University, Chico.
  • Professional Achievement Honors – California State University, Chico – 2005
  • Gerald R. Seeley ASEE Fellow – ASEE 2003 Conference - for outstanding paper submitted by junior faculty
  • Awarded Glen L. Martin Best Paper Award for the Civil Engineering Division of ASEE – 2002 Conference
  • ExCEEd Fellow – American Society of Civil Engineers – 2002
  • Department of Energy Fellowship – Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, 1999-2001

Courses Taught

  • CENG 7 Graphic Communication
  • CENG 41 Statics
  • CENG 43 Mechanics of Materials
  • CENG 115 Civil Engineering Materials
  • CENG 121 Soil Mechanics
  • CENG 213 Sustainable Materials

For a list of Civil Engineering course descriptions, visit the Undergraduate Courses page or the Graduate Courses page.

At other institutions:
Foundation Engineering, Structural Analysis, Computer Applications in Engineering. Steel Design for Architects, 2-D & 3-D Computer Modeling of Structures.

Society Memberships and Service

  1. Member ASEE
  2. Member ASCE – Educational Activities – CFD committee 2006-2009

Professional Registration

Registered Civil Engineer, State of California


Nilsson, T; Aschheim, M; King, B; "Ecological Building:  Recycled and Low CO2 Materials for Low-Cost, Earthquake-Resistant Housing in Haiti", 13th International Conference on Non-conventional Materials and Technologies, September 2011, abstract accepted. 

Estes, A.; Welch, R.; Ressler, S.; Dennis, N.; Larson, D.; Considine, C.; Nilsson, T; O'Neill, R; O'Brien, J. and Lenox, T.; "Ten Years of ExCEEd:  Making a Difference in the Profession", International Journal of Engineering Education, Vol 26-1, 2010

Emerson, T., "Minds in Motion – An event to engage K-12 in Science, Math, Technology, and Engineering", American Society of Engineering Education Conference Proceedings, Portland, OR, June 2005 

Emerson, T. and Ward, M., "Students Are Leaving Engineering Curriculums; Can Our Educational Approach Stop This?", American Society of Engineering Education Conference Proceedings, Portland, OR, June 2005

Emerson, T. and Mills, R., "Student Chapters – An Adjunct to Engineering Education", American Society of Engineering Education Conference Proceedings, Nashville, TN, June 2003 – Winner of the Gerald R. Seeley ASEE Fellow

Emerson, T., "Enhancing Students' Understanding of Key Engineering Concepts Through the Use of Civil Engineering Toys in the Classroom", American Society of Engineering Education Conference Proceedings, Montreal, Canada, June 2002 – Winner of the Glen L. Martin Best Paper Award

Tonya Nilsson
Lecturer, Department of Civil Engineering