Inspired to Innovate: A Future-Focused Conversation
Subra Suresh, DSc
Carnegie Mellon University
Subra Suresh, DSc, is the ninth president of Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to assuming this role in July 2013, he served as director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).
A distinguished engineer and scientist, Suresh is one of only 16 Americans and the only university president to be elected to all three National Academies—the Institute of Medicine (2013), the National Academy of Sciences (2012) and the National Academy of Engineering (2002).
Before joining NSF, Suresh served as the dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His experimental and modeling work on the mechanical properties of structural and functional materials, innovations in materials design and characterization, and discoveries of possible connections between cellular nanomechanical processes and human disease states have shaped new fields in the fertile intersections of traditional disciplines. He has co-authored more than 250 journal articles, registered 21 patents, and written three widely used books, and many of his former students and post-doctoral fellows now occupy prominent positions in academia, industry, and government worldwide.
At Carnegie Mellon, he has spearheaded a new university-wide research program in brain, computation, and behavior; he is also developing a new quadrangle on CMU’s Pittsburgh campus to house a variety of interdisciplinary activities in entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as a new home for the business school. Under his leadership, the university established The Simon Initiative to expand research and practice in technology-enhanced learning; as part of this effort, he convened and chairs the Global Learning Council, which includes leaders from academia, industry, and philanthropy committed to developing worldwide standards and protocols for technologies and practices that achieve effective educational outcomes.
Suresh received his Bachelor of Technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, in First Class with Distinction; a master’s degree from Iowa State University; and a Doctor of Science degree from MIT. He was on the faculty of engineering at Brown University (1983-1993). He joined MIT in 1993 as the R.P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and served as head of MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (2000-2006).
At NSF, he established national programs and policies that promoted interdisciplinary research, graduate student support, innovation and entrepreneurship, and career-life balance. He also convened and chaired the Global Research Council, made up of heads of national research funding agencies who seek to coordinate practices that enhance international scientific collaboration.
In addition to the three U.S. National Academies, Suresh has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences, Spanish Royal Academy of Engineering, German National Academy of Sciences, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, Academy of Sciences of the Developing World, Indian National Academy of Engineering, Indian Academy of Sciences, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Suresh has been awarded 11 honorary degrees from universities in the United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, China, India, and the United Kingdom. His many honors include the 2006 Acta Materialia Gold Medal, the 2007 European Materials Medal, the 2008 Eringen Medal of the Society of Engineering Science, the 2011 General President’s Gold Medal from the Indian National Science Congress, the 2011 Padma Shri Award from the president of India, the 2011 Nadai Medal and the 2012 Timoshenko Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the 2012 R.F. Mehl Award from the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, and a 2013 Franklin Institute Medal. In 2006, Technology Review magazine selected Suresh as a top-10 researcher whose research “will have a significant impact on business, medicine or culture.”