Deb Chachra

she / they

Professor of Engineering

On Leave

Debbie Chachra portrait


Milas Hall 264




  • Ph.D., Materials Science, University of Toronto, 2001
  • M.A.Sc., Materials Science, University of Toronto, 1995
  • B.A.Sc., Engineering Science, University of Toronto, 1992

select courses taught


  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Public Understanding of Science & Technology Book Grant (2020)
  • NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award (2010 - 2015)
  • William Elgin Wickenden Award, American Society for Engineering Education (2009)

Dr. Chachra works and communicates at the intersection of technology and culture.

Deb Chachra is the author of How Infrastructure Works: Inside the Systems That Shape Our World (Riverhead/Torva, 2023), and she writes, thinks, builds, and speaks widely on themes of technology and society. As one of the earliest faculty at Olin College, Dr. Chachra has been deeply engaged in all aspects of undergraduate engineering education, including the design of learning experiences and programs, as well as educational research. Her current pedagogical focus is on the development of young technologists as reflective practitioners and self-directed learners, largely through foundational design courses. She consults and collaborates with colleagues worldwide.

Dr. Chachra’s work and ideas have been supported by the Sloan Foundation, the Autodesk Foundation, and others, and she received an NSF CAREER Award for research on engineering education. She has written for outlets including the Atlantic and Nature and a regular column for the American Society for Engineering Education’s Prism magazine, as well as her own long-running online newsletter, Metafoundry. Dr. Chachra’s technical background is in engineering physics and materials science, with a focus on biological systems; prior to joining the faculty of Olin College, she was a postdoctoral associate at MIT.

Select Publications

Deb Chachra, How Infrastructure Works: Inside the Systems that Shape Our World (2023) Riverhead Books (US) / Torva (UK).

Debbie Chachra, To reduce gender biases, acknowledge them (2017) Nature 548: 373.

D Chachra, H Limeback, T Willett, MD Grynpas (2010) Assessing the long-term effects of water fluoridation on the human skeleton. Journal of Dental Research 89:1219-1223.