About Dr. Simmons
Denise R. Simmons, Ph.D., PE, PMP, LEED-AP is an Associate Professor of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida. She holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in civil engineering (CE) and a graduate certificate in engineering education—all from Clemson University. She has over ten years of CE and construction experience working for energy companies and as a project management consultant. Dr. Simmons passionately pursues workforce research that bridges the space between understanding the future of work in civil engineering in the United States and characterizing, measuring, and evaluating the competencies, learning technologies, and ecosystems that equip and sustain an inclusive workforce. With nearly 15 years of experience in academia, Dr. Simmons has garnered more than $4.5M in federal funding and authored 75 refereed publications. She has delivered 25 platform presentations at international, national, regional, and local conferences and meetings, and has no less than 38 invited/keynote presentations. In 2019, she was inducted into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy and was the recipient of Clemson University’s Glenn Department of Civil Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award.
Dr. Simmons is concerned first about the human condition and driven and inspired by what a civil engineering or construction organization can achieve by attending to the needs of its people. Her content knowledge includes the professional formation of engineers; models to sustain a workforce that evaluate diversity, inclusion, satisfaction, affective engagement in work, agency, and personal resilience; leadership development; and hazard identification. In her work, she pragmatically employs an array of research methods emphasizing qualitative approaches and instrument development. She oversees the Simmons Research Lab (www.denisersimmons.com), which is home to a dynamic, interdisciplinary mix of graduate researchers and postdoctoral researchers working at the intersection of construction engineering and management, workforce development, and CE and construction education.
Dr. Simmons’ current research focuses on three areas: diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); interactions between humans and technology; and competency development via education and training. Throughout her research is a defining strand emphasizing DEI, acknowledging DEI not as a discrete area of study, but rather a guiding principle impacting research, practice, and society as a whole. Her wide-ranging, self-reflective, and use inspired work to assess and foster DEI in the engineering field/construction workplace has included examining the educational experiences of Black and Latina undergraduates in engineering, developing indicators of DEI in the workplace, and exploring the professional identities of engineering students with disabilities. In the area of technology, Dr. Simmons has explored the use of virtual reality in CE and construction classrooms and in the workplace as a tool for hazard recognition. Dr. Simmons is currently investigating the development of artificial intelligence (AI) awareness as a critical competency for the engineering/construction workforce. Dr. Simmons’ work on competence development in civil engineers and construction professionals has included a focus on out-of-class involvement and affective engagement in the educational experience, which she explored through an NSF-funded CAREER award. Her work has also explored competence development in the workplace and investigated factors such as personal satisfaction and resilience, organizational culture, informal learning, and work values. Dr. Simmons’ research has included a major emphasis on the leadership development of engineering and construction professionals and she was the principal investigator of an NSF-funded grant to explore how leadership has been defined, developed, and measured in the fields of engineering and construction.
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About the Simmons Research Lab
The Overview of Simmons Research Lab is home to a dynamic, interdisciplinary mix of researchers who work together to explore human, technological and societal interactions to transform civil engineering practice with an emphasis on understanding hazard recognition, competencies, satisfaction, personal resilience, organizational culture, training, and social considerations. SRL members learn research methods appropriate for investigating human thinking, motivation, and learning. We bridge the gaps in language, background, and ways of thinking from the social sciences and higher education to civil engineering and the construction industry. Internally, we keep the team informed on topics ranging from important publications to read to upcoming birthdays of team members. Externally, we share our research findings through manuscripts, posters, oral presentations, social media, and other dissemination outlets. For more information, review the Overview of SRL file.