New instructor Nicole Ellison ready to educate civil engineering students and ‘make messes’

Nicole Ellison, pictured with her daughter, left, and husband, right, returned to school for her graduate degrees when her daughter went to college.
Nicole Ellison, pictured with her daughter and husband, returned to school for her graduate degrees when her daughter went to college.

Nicole Ellison spent 15 years as a structural and forensic engineer before returning to school to get her graduate degrees. That’s when it all came together and she fell in love with teaching.

“Teaching answers my ‘why’,” Ellison said. “Why does what I am doing matter?”

Ellison has joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as a teaching assistant professor. She’s especially excited to work with students in the materials laboratory, or “smash” lab.

“I love to get dirty and make messes,” she said.

Ellison originally chose to become an engineer because she wanted to make sure she could support herself. She also had an aptitude for math.

“I liked that math and science had answers and were not subjective, like English and art,” she said.

Ellison worked on a wide range of commercial and residential structures, including the Downtown Denver Four Seasons, Fort Collins Police Station, and Devil’s Thumb Ranch, before going back to school when her daughter went to college. She received her M.S.C.E. and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Denver.

Ellison, middle, flanked by two co-workers in front of a wind turbine at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Ellison with her co-workers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“We are very fortunate to have Dr. Nicole Ellison join our faculty,” Department Head Charles Shackelford said. “Aside from her enthusiasm for and devotion to teaching, she has previous teaching experience as an adjunct instructor at CU-Denver and the Colorado School of Mines, a wealth of practical experience in structural engineering that she can impart to our students, and expertise in computer-aided design in civil and environmental engineering that is in strong demand among our students.”

Ellison taught courses in civil engineering materials, computer-aided design, mechanics of materials and engineering practice at Colorado School of Mines and the University of Colorado Denver. Most recently, she served as the lead facility structural engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“It has been amazing meeting the incredible professors in my department,” Ellison said. “I am so excited to be part of this team!”

At CSU, Ellison has found her “why.”

“I love college – the community, energy, and hope,” she said. “College is where anything is possible and where the solutions to the world’s biggest problems are seeded.”