College of Engineering gets esteemed new associate dean

Off the top of her head, Helena Solo-Gabriele can name at least five personal career accomplishments, and as of mid-August, she can add another to her list: being named associate dean for research in the College of Engineering.

“The position wasn’t something I was actively pursuing,” Solo-Gabriele said. “It was just an opportunity that came up.”

Upon completing both her undergraduate and Master’s work in civil engineering at UM, Solo-Gabriele went on to receive her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from MIT.

Instead of living by a ten-year plan, Solo-Gabriele says she jumps when the timing is right.

“I know what I want to do at the current time and I pursue what I like,” she said. “I try to keep as many doors open and as many opportunities possible.”

Prior to her position as associate dean, Solo-Gabriele was associate chair of the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering department; she later acted as interim chair until a new hire could be found. She is also a professor in the department, teaching two courses this semester.

While a recent study sheds light on the lack of female faculty in science and engineering, Solo-Gabriele is thankful for the opportunities she has been afforded.

“Not only myself, but other women may see some building blocks or obstacles that need to be overcome,” she said. “The upper administration needs to make sure that these stumbling blocks are not there.”

According to Solo-Gabriele, administrative obstacles make it difficult for individual researchers, which is why a shift of focus is needed. She hopes to increase research productivity in the CoE, in collaboration with other departments.

And while she acknowledges the difficulty in juggling her workload with her personal life, Solo-Gabriele manages to do so with the support of her family.

A Miami native, Solo-Gabriele spends her downtime with husband Frank and their daughters, Christina, 11, and Elizabeth, 4.

Megan Ondrizek may be contacted at