Dr. Brent Nelson

Brent Nelson Portrait


Dr. Brent Nelson, Associate Professor; (PhD, Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2007). Dr. Nelson’s expertise spans a variety of topics, including energy systems analysis, energy policy, energy transport, bioengineering, and materials science. He completed his PhD performing interdisciplinary research at the intersection of thermal transport, materials science, and nanofabrication, and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in engineering design education with the National Academy of Engineering CASEE program. He spent 2014-2016 away from NAU on sabbatical, working as a policy fellow at the US Department of Energy in the Building Technologies Office, where he managed multiple international research programs and provided strategic analysis to guide R&D strategy. He also spent the summer of 2017 working with the Strategic Energy Analysis Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Dr. Nelson’s primary research interest focuses on understanding the opportunities for and economic/environmental impacts of demand side management in the energy sector. In particular, he is interested in how technological and policy change affect energy consumption patterns, and how these resultant changes affect energy generation and supply, including the integration of renewable energy. Dr. Nelson also continues to use his background in nanoscience to collaborate on a variety of bioengineering projects, including mechanical characterization of biomaterials and measurement of protein-protein interactions.
His personal academic interests include pretty much everything, and his non-academic interests include trying to be a blessing to those around him, assorted outdoor activities, musical instruments, and shenanigans.


Research Interests and Technical Expertise


  • Energy systems analysis and policy
  • Energy efficiency technologies and demand side management
  • Thermodynamics, heat transfer, and thermal transport
  • Data analysis
  • Design methodology and evaluation
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Nanomaterials and nanofabrication
  • Materials science


Educational background


    • Associate Professor, NAU, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 2014-present (Assistant Prof. 2008-2014)
    • Collaborative Appointee, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Strategic Energy Analysis Center, 2017
    • AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, US Department of Energy, Building Technologies Office, 2014-2016
    • National Academy of Engineering CASEE Postdoctoral Fellow, 2007-2008.
    • Georgia Institute of Technology, Woodruff Teaching Fellow, 2007
    • Georgia Institute of Technology, Presidential Fellow & NDSEG Fellow, 2002-2006.

    Courses and topics usually taught        


    • ME599 – Energy Systems Analysis
    • ME451 – Renewable Energy
    • ME450 – Heat Transfer
    • ME392 - Thermodynamics II
    • ME291 - Thermodynamics I
    • EGR 186 - Introduction to Engineering Design
    • EGR 286 - Engineering Design: The Process
    • EGR 502 - Topics in Advanced Design (innovative design/bio-inspired design)


    Science and Other Courses Taken and Audited        


    • Biology: Principles of Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Genetics, General Pathology
    • Chemistry: Organic Chemistry I & II, Biochemistry, Inorganic Chemistry I, Physical Chemistry II, Surface Chemistry
    • Physics: Solid State Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Experimental Methods in Condensed Matter Physics, Statistical Mechanics, Nanoscale Energy Transport, Surface Analysis
    • Engineering/Economics: Problems in Biomedical Engineering, Environmentally Conscious Design and Manufacturing, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics


    Honors, awards, and professional activities  


    • AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, 2014-2016
    • NAU College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences Teacher of the Year, 2013-2014
    • USASBE Faculty Scholarship, 2010
    • Frontiers in Education New Faculty Fellow, 2009
    • ASEE Best Paper Nomination, 2008
    • NAE CASEE Postdoctoral Fellow, 2007-2008
    • Georgia Institute of Technology Woodruff Teaching Fellow, 2007
    • Georgia Institute of Technology Presidential Fellow, 2002-2006
    • NDSEG Fellow, 2003-2006
    • Graduate SGA Outstanding Poster Award for College of Engineering, 2006
    • Member: American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)


    Other Interests

    • Musical instruments (guitar, djembe, banjo, mandolin)
    • Outdoor sports (mountain biking, backpacking, hiking, ski/snowboarding, climbing)
    • Friends and family
    • Laughter and love.

    Science nerd t-shirts designed

    Brownie in Motion (Joe Charest, Marcus Eliason, Fabian Goericke, Brent Nelson, Harry Rowland)

    Van Der Waals - Slightly Attractive (Joe Charest, Fabian Goericke, Brent Nelson, Harry Rowland)