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Cynthia Atman

Cynthia Atman

Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE)

Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching

Mitchell T. and Lella Blanche Bowie Endowed Chair


Cynthia J. Atman is the founding director of the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT), a professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering, and the inaugural holder of the Mitchell T. & Lella Blanche Bowie Endowed Chair at the University of Washington. Dr. Atman is co-director of the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE), funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. She was director of the NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), a national research center that was funded from 2003-2010.  Her research focuses on engineering design learning, considering context in engineering design, and the use of reflection to support learning.  She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the ASEE. Dr. Atman holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.


PhD, Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
MS, Industrial and Systems Engineering, The Ohio State University
BS, Industrial Engineering, West Virginia University

Selected Awards & Honors

IEEE Professional Communication Society Alfred N. Goldsmith Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Communication, July 2017

David B. Thorud Leadership Award, University of Washington, March 2009

American Society of Engineering Education Fellow, May 2006

American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, February 2006

The Mitchell T. and Lella Blanche Bowie Endowed Chair, January 2006 

ASEE Chester F. Carlson Award for Innovation in Engineering Education, June 2002

Selected Keynotes & Invited Talks

Good designers do ‘X’
Keynote presentation at Transdisciplinary Engineering conference, July 2023.
- Video
- Slide deck

Design Awareness: From design expertise... to design signatures to ...
Presented at Stanford University, February 27, 2023.
- Video

Researching and Teaching Engineering Design
Extraordinary Engineering Impacts on Society Symposium, National Science Foundation's Directorate for Engineering and organized by the National Academy of Engineering, August 2022.
- Video

Design Process Expertise: The Importance of Design Awareness
Distinguished Lecture Series, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, March 10, 2021.
- Video 
- Slide deck

Design Signatures: Empirically Based Representations of Design Processes
Invited Speaker at the Engineering Education Research Program at the University of Michigan, October 23, 2019.
Video (presentation begins at 2 minute mark)
- Slide deck

Design Heard: Interpretations of the Design Process
Cynthia J. Atman and Dharma Dailey,  April 2, 2018.
Slide deck

Concrete & Sticky: An Informal Theory of Change (With Three Worked Examples)
Invited Keynote Speaker. IEEE Professional Communication Conference, Madison, Wisconsin, July 25, 2017. 

Does the Globe Get a Say? Researching & Teaching on Designing in Context 
Invited Keynote Speaker, 7th Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development, Vancouver, B.C., June 10, 2015.

Inspiring Change Agents to Transform Engineering Education: Challenges and Strategies of Engineering Education Pioneers
Invited Distinguished Lecture Series, 2014 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Indianapolis, IN, June 18, 2014.

Engineering Education Research: Some History and Examples from the U.S.
Invited Opening Address, Danish Centre for Engineering Education Research and Development, Copenhagen University and Aalborg University, June 8, 2007.

Selected Publications

Atman, C. (2019) Design Timelines: Concrete & Sticky Representations of Design Process Expertise. Design Studies, Volume 65, November 2019, pages 125-151.  (Invited paper for the 40th anniversary issue of Design Studies focused on “Design as a Discipline”)

Shroyer, K.,  Terri LovinsJennifer TurnsMonica E. CardellaCynthia J. Atman (2018) Timescales and Ideaspace: An examination of idea generation in design practice, Design StudiesVolume 57, July 2018, Pages 9-36.  (Design Studies Best Paper 2018 award)

Atman, C.J., Sheppard, S.D., Turns, J., Adams, R.S., Fleming, L.N., Stevens, R., Streveler, R.A., Smith, K.A., Miller, R.L., Leifer, L.J., Yasuhara, K., & Lund. D. Enabling Engineering Student Success: The Final Report for the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool Publishers, 2010. 

Atman, C.J., Yasuhara, K., Adams, R. S., Barker, T., Turns, J., and Rhone, E. (2008). “Breadth in Problem-Scoping: A Comparison of Freshman and Senior Engineering Students.”  International Journal of Engineering Education, 24(2), 234-245.

Atman, C.J., Adams, R. S., Cardella, M. E., Turns, J., Mosborg, S., and Saleem, J. J. (2007).  “Engineering Design Processes:  A Comparison of Students and Expert Practitioners.”  Journal of Engineering Education, 96(4), 359-379.

Adams, R. S., Turns, J., and Atman, C.J. (2003).  “Educating Effective Engineering Designers: the Role of Reflective Practice.”  Design Studies, 24(3), 275-294. (Design Studies Best Paper 2013 award).

Atman, C.J., Chimka, J. R., Bursic, K.M., and Nachtmann, H.L. (1999).  “A comparison of Freshman and Senior Engineering Design Processes.” Design Studies, 20(2), 131-152.