Dr. Steven P. Nichols, Director

The Director of the Chair, Dr. Steven P. Nichols, directs the Chair's activities and works closely with faculty from the Cockrell School of Engineering and other university academic and research organizations as well as the advisory committee to develop and support engineering entrepreneurship. Nichols also coordinates activities with faculty from other colleges at The University of Texas at Austin, other universities and the broader community.


Director, Chair of Free Enterprise
Director, Advanced Manufacturing Center

B.S., The University of Texas at Austin
M.S., The University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin
J.D., The University of Texas at Austin

Professional Career

Dr. Nichols' research interests include topics in engineering design and manufacturing, technology entrepreneurship/commercialization and professional aspects of engineering practice. He currently serves in two administrative posts at The University of Texas at Austin.

As the Director of the Clint Murchison Chair of Free Enterprise, Dr. Nichols focuses on creating and nurturing a culture of technology innovation, creativity, leadership and entrepreneurship in the Cockrell School of Engineering. As part of his activities, Dr. Nichols organized the Roden Scholar program and supported the start-up of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Society and the Idea to Product® (I2P®) technology competition. I2P® grew from nine teams at the university in 2002 to 72 teams in 2003. The University of Texas at Austin served as the host for the first International Idea to Product® Competition in the Fall of 2003. Dr. Nichols has also initiated multidisciplinary research and classroom activities that encourage collaborative learning environments for students, faculty and staff from the Cockrell School, the College of Natural Sciences, the McCombs School of Business and the School of Law.

As the Director of the Advanced Manufacturing, Dr. Nichols coordinates the activities of more than 30 engineering faculty in researching and development of innovative manufacturing processes and procedures.

Dr. Nichols previously served as the associate vice president for research. In that position, Dr. Nichols oversaw the commercialization of the knowledge base of The University of Texas at Austin and supervised the director of the Office of Technology Commercialization. As the associate vice president for research, Dr. Nichols advocated that the knowledge base of a university has potential to more broadly benefit society, and he believes that commercialization activities at universities must support the education, research, and service missions of a university. He initiated the Texas Alliance for Technology Commercialization and hosted the Alliance's first Technology Forum in May 2002.

Dr. Nichols previously served as the associate chair for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He coordinated with faculty and industrial representatives. He also prepared proposals for industrial support for departmental activities. Dr. Nichols also served as a designated contact for alumni. As part of his responsibilities, Dr. Nichols raised more than $8 million in industrial support for educational activities.

Dr. Nichols previously served as the director of the Design Projects Program (Department of Mechanical Engineering.) Dr. Nichols taught the department's capstone design courses (ME 466K and ME 279M) for 14 years, supervising approximately 200 students each year in approximately 60 industrial sponsored projects annually. He emphasized design methodology and introduced material on engineering ethics and engineering professionalism. While serving as Director for the program, Dr. Nichols raised more than $3,920,000 in industrial and government support for undergraduate engineering design education. Dr. Nichols coordinated an interdisciplinary (collaborative) design experience among students and faculty in Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He also organized a cross-disciplinary course in entrepreneurship in cooperation with the College of Natural Sciences, the McCombs School of Business, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Law and IC2.

Dr. Nichols also previously served as the director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources (formerly the Center for Energy Studies). CES research includes faculty in separations research, process energetics, energy economics and environmental engineering. Dr. Nichols also serves on the board for a state agency, the Texas Energy Coordination Council. The Council recently completed a study of Market Based Methods for Encouraging Renewable Resources for the State of Texas.

Dr. Nichols served as the acting director of the Center for Electromechanics (CEM) for five years. CEM research focuses on rotating machines, but center researchers also work in areas including resistance welding, electro-spray and hybrid electric vehicles (suspension, control and energy requirements). During the 1997-98 academic year, the center introduced a new research program both in power quality applications and in space applications for flywheel technology developed at CEM.

Dr. Nichols received the inaugural Olympus Innovation Award in 2005. He is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering and has received the Fred Merryfield Design Award from the American Society of Engineering Education. Dr. Nichols received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 1975 and J.D. in Law (with honors) in 1983.

Idea2Product Program