2018 Van Vlack Lecture draws one of world's top MSE scholars and researchers

2018 Van Vlack Lecture draws one of world's top MSE scholars and researchers

Katsuyo Thornton, the Lawrence H. and Frances E. Van Vlack Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, presents Subra Suresh with the Lawrence H. Van Vlack Lectureship Award on Sept. 26.

This year’s Van Vlack Lecture went international with a visit from Subra Suresh, current president of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and former NSF director and president of Carnegie Mellon University.

“It was such an immense honor to have Professor Suresh make the effort to join us all the way from Singapore,” said Katsuyo Thornton, the Lawrence H. and Francis E. Van Vlack Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, adding, “It just goes to show what enduring prominence the Van Vlack name has in the materials community.” 

The festivities began with dinner on the evening of September 26, which nearly 60 people attended, including Bruce Van Vlack of Goodrich, Mich., son of Larry and Frances Van Vlack. In a brief presentation following dinner, Thornton presented Suresh with a certificate and award. 

“It is so wonderful to be back at the University of Michigan,” Suresh commented, noting how he used Professor Van Vlack’s iconic textbook Elements of Materials Science and Engineering in his early teaching days at MIT.

The next day Suresh participated in a series of group discussions with 18 different faculty members, taking time out in late morning to present a talk in Stamps Auditorium: “Materials Science and the Study of Human Diseases,” in which he presented an overview of his research on biotechnology’s intersection with material science and engineering.

 “It’s just so amazing how he can talk knowledgeably about materials fatigue one minute and blood disorders the next,” commented Assistant Professor Ashwin Shahani. “I am in awe of the depth and breadth of his intellect.” 

Born in Bombay, India, Suresh is an eminent American scientist, engineer and entrepreneur with decades of distinguished and impactful leadership in academia, industry and government. From 2007-2010 he served as dean of the School of Engineering at MIT. In 2010 he was appointed by Barack Obama to head the National Science Foundation, which he led until 2013, when he left to become president of Carnegie Mellon University. He joined Nanyang Technology University as president on January 1, 2018.

The annual Van Vlack Lectureship started in 2001 in honor of Professor Lawrence H. Van Vlack, who was instrumental in establishing what would eventually become the current Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Van Vlack authored 12 books, including the Elements of Materials Science and Engineering, which, through its more than 25 foreign editions and translations, has introduced millions of students worldwide to the discipline of materials science and engineering.

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