He also directs the Center for Buildings, Infrastructure and Public Space at Columbia. From 2014 to 2017, Peña-Mora was on a three-year public service leave serving in the role of Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC). There, he was responsible for over 1,200 projects valued in excess of $15 billion, undertaken by over 1,400 employees and 1,320 consultants. Before this, he was the Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Professor of Engineering and Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University. As Dean, he was responsible for setting the strategic direction and managing the operations of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which had an endowment of over $400 million.
Peña-Mora has also held positions of Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor, National Center for Supercomputing Applications affiliate, Beckman Institute faculty affiliate, Associate Provost Fellow, and Associate Provost at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In his role at the Provost office, he led the campus efforts on interdisciplinary, diversity, and entrepreneurial initiatives. He started his career at MIT, where he was codirector of the MIT Intelligent Engineering Systems Laboratory, and Gilbert W. Winslow Career Development Professor of Information Technology and Construction Management.
He has been a visiting professor at Tsinghua University in China, Loughborough University in Great Britain, and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland; Distinguished Visiting Fellow of the UK Royal Academy of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, the University of Salford, and the University of Manchester; and Visitor at the University of Sydney in Australia. He has earned an international reputation for his scholarship, teaching, research, and engineering innovations. His research interests include information technology support for collaboration in preparedness, response, and recovery during disasters involving critical physical infrastructures, change management, conflict resolution, and sustainable construction.
Peña-Mora is the author or coauthor of more than 220 scholarly publications and holds six patents. He has been recognized with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE); the National Science Foundation CAREER Award; and numerous ASCE awards, including the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, the James R. Croes Medal, the Computing in Civil Engineering Award, the Construction Management Award, and the Best Paper Awards for articles in the Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering, Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, and Journal of Management in Engineering. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Buildings (CIOB) as well as an elected member of both the Dominican Republic Academy of Sciences and the United States National Academy of Construction.
He earned his M.S. and Sc.D. degrees in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1991 and 1994, respectively.