Subra Suresh

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Subra Suresh
Dr. Subra Suresh, Ninth President of Carnegie Mellon University, July 2013.jpg
President, Carnegie Mellon University
Assumed office
1 July 2013
Preceded by Jared Cohon
Personal details
Born (1956-05-30) 30 May 1956 (age 60)
Mumbai, India
Alma mater Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Iowa State University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Awards Eringen Medal (2008)
Timoshenko Medal (2012)

Subra Suresh (born 30 May 1956) is the ninth and current president of Carnegie Mellon University.

A distinguished engineer and scientist, Suresh served as Director of the National Science Foundation from 2010 to 2013. Before his appointment to NSF, he was the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was the Dean of the School of Engineering (2007–2010).

In October 2013, Suresh was elected to the Institute of Medicine, the branch of the US National Academies that honours researchers in medicine and health care. He already had been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (2012) and the National Academy of Engineering (2002). Suresh is one of only 19 American scientists to be elected to all three branches, and the only current university president to hold this distinction. He is the first Asian-born professor to lead any of the five schools at MIT and the first Asian-born scientist to lead NSF.[1]

His appointment as president of Carnegie Mellon University was announced on 5 February 2013.[2] Commenting on Suresh's tenure at NSF, President Obama stated, "We have been very fortunate to have Subra Suresh guiding the National Science Foundation . . . . [He] has shown himself to be a consummate scientist and engineer – beholden to evidence and committed to upholding the highest scientific standards. He has also done his part to make sure the American people benefit from advances in technology, and opened up more opportunities for women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups. I am grateful for his service."[3]

Background and education[edit]

Suresh graduated from 10th grade in Tamil Nadu, India, at the age of 15. He received his BTech from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai in May 1977 and his MS from Iowa State University in May 1979. He completed his doctoral thesis two years later, in August 1981, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a ScD.

Leadership Roles[edit]

Brown University[edit]

Suresh joined Brown University in December 1983 as Assistant Professor of Engineering and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in July 1986 and to Professor in July 1989. In 1985, he was selected by the White House to receive the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award. Prior to and during his tenure at Brown University, he received many other honours including: The Hardy Gold Medal "for exceptional promise of a successful career in the broad field of metallurgy by a metallurgist under the age of 30," and the 1985 Matthewson Gold Medal from The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society for the best paper published in Metallurgical Transactions, and the 1992 Ross Coffin Purdy Award from the American Ceramic Society for the best paper published in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society during 1990. In 1991, he authored Fatigue of Materials, a book published by Cambridge University Press and that has remained a classic in the field for two decades. It has been cited more than 2,500 times by scientists and engineers in scholarly publications, adopted as both a textbook and a reference work, and translated into Chinese and Japanese.


Prior to assuming his position as director of NSF, Suresh served as MIT's Dean of Engineering from July 2007[4] and had held MIT faculty appointments in Materials science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Biological Engineering, and Health Sciences and Technology. He headed MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering from 2000–2006.

In his leadership roles at MIT, he helped create new state-of-the-art laboratories, a new undergraduate curriculum in materials science and engineering, the MIT Transportation Initiative, and the Center for Computational Engineering; led MIT's efforts in establishing the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Center; and oversaw the recruitment of a record number of women faculty in engineering.[5] As Dean of Engineering, he launched and/or oversaw the growth of a number of MIT's major international programs in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas.


In June 2010, Suresh was nominated by US President Barack Obama[6] to be the Director of the National Science Foundation and was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate in September 2010.[7] From 2010–2013, he led[8] this independent federal agency with an annual (US)$7-billion budget; according to its 2013 Fact Sheet, "its programs and initiatives keep the United States at the forefront of science and engineering, empower future generations of scientists and engineers, and foster economic growth and innovation. NSF funds discovery, learning, innovation, and research infrastructure to boost US leadership in all aspects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research and education. In Fiscal Year 2012, NSF supported more than 300,000 individuals in 1,895 institutions in every state in the United States."[9]

As Director of NSF, Suresh established a number of new initiatives including INSPIRE (Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education); PEER (Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development [USAID]); SAVI (Science Across Virtual Institutes); the NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative; GROW (Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide); and the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps).[10]

Suresh served as a member of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), a cabinet-level council comprising federal agency heads and cabinet secretaries. He also co-chaired the NSTC Committee on Science and the Committee on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education, and he is a member of the cabinet-level National Ocean Council. Suresh also chaired the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC), which helped set priorities for co-ordinating future arctic research across the federal government. Under Suresh's leadership, IARPC released a multiagency five-year strategic plan.[11]

In response to an invitation from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Suresh chaired a Global Summit on Scientific Merit Review at NSF in May 2012. This Summit included the participation, for the first time, of the heads of leading science funding agencies from nearly 50 countries.[12] Summit participants endorsed a Statement of Principles of Scientific Merit Review to serve as a basis of potential multilateral collaborations in the future.[13] The participants also collectively launched a virtual entity, the Global Research Council (GRC), in an attempt to co-ordinate practices so as to enhance international collaboration in Science among developed and developing countries.[14][15]

Carnegie Mellon University[edit]

Dr. Suresh is the 9th president of Carnegie Mellon University, assuming office on 1 July 2013.[2] Suresh maintains faculty appointments in Carnegie Mellon's Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Engineering and Public Policy, Computational Biology Department, and in the Heinz College.


His experimental research focuses on modelling the mechanical properties of structural and functional materials, innovations in materials design and characterisation, and discoveries of possible connections between cellular nanomechanical processes and human disease states. Some of this work has spawned new fields in the fertile interdisciplinary intersections of traditional disciplines in engineering, physical sciences, life sciences, and medicine. More than 100 students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting scholars have been members of his research group, and many of them now occupy prominent positions in academia, industry, and government worldwide.

Publications, Patents[edit]

Suresh is the author or co-author of more than 240 research articles in international journals, co-editor of five books, and co-inventor on 22 US and international patent applications. He has authored or co-authored three widely used material science books: Fatigue of Materials, Fundamentals of Functionally Graded Materials, and Thin Film Materials. He is one of the most-cited scientists in materials science, according to Thomson Reuters Institute for Scientific Information. In 2011, Science Watch/Thomson Reuters selected Suresh as one of the top-100 scientists for the decade 2000–2010 in its world-wide ranking of the field of Materials Science.[16]

Suresh's research contributions at the intersections of engineering, physical sciences, life sciences, and medicine include:

  • Identification of key mechanisms that influence the growth of fatigue cracks in a wide variety of brittle and ductile materials;
  • Development of experimental and computational methods for optimising the mechanical performance of composites and compositionally graded materials;
  • Formulation of new experimental methods and algorithms for linking the mechanical characteristics of thin films, coatings, and multi-layered materials with performance;
  • Discovery of nanocrystallisation during room-temperature mechanical contact in metallic glasses;
  • Development of strategies to optimise strength, ductility, and damage tolerance of materials through the controlled introduction of nano-scale internal interfaces;
  • Delineation of important links between the mechanics of individual blood cells and human disease states, through experiments and computation;
  • Discovery of the role of RESA [ring-infected erythrocyte surface antigen] protein in modulating the mechanical properties and rheological response of human blood cells invaded by malaria parasites; and
  • Development of new microfluidic platforms for human disease diagnostics, therapeutics and drug efficacy assays.


In 2013, Suresh was elected to the Institute of Medicine, making him one of only 16 Americans who are members of all three branches of the US National Academies. He had been elected to the National Academy of Science in 2012 and to the National Academy of Engineering in 2002.

In 2011, Suresh received the Padma Shri award, India's fourth highest civilian honour, bestowed by the President of India.[17] Other honours include the 2006 Acta Materialia Gold Medal; the 2007 European Materials Medal, the highest honour conferred by the Federation of European Materials Societies comprising 27 countries (he was the first scientist based outside Europe to receive this 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 2012 R.F. Mehl Award from The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society; the 2011 Nadai Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME); and the 2011 National Materials Advancement Award from the Federation of Materials Societies. He also received ASME's 2012 Timoshenko Medal, the highest global recognition in the field of theoretical and applied mechanics.

In 2008, he received the A. Cemal Eringen Medal.

In 2006, Technology Review magazine selected his work on nanobiomechanics as one of the top-10 emerging technologies that "will have a significant impact on business, medicine or culture." Suresh received the Franklin Institute's 2013 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science for "outstanding contributions to our understanding of the mechanical behavior of materials in applications ranging from large structures down to the atomic level. This research also showed how deformation of biological cells can be linked to human disease."[18][19]

Suresh also received the Alan Cottrell Gold Medal for his pioneering work on fracture and fatigue of materials at the 2013 International Conference on Fracture.

Suresh also a member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Engineering; Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences; German National Academy of Sciences; Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences; Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) in Trieste, Italy; Indian National Academy of Engineering; Indian Academy of Sciences (Bangalore), and, most recently in 2014, the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is a recipient of eleven honorary doctorate degrees from universities in the United States, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, India, China, and the United Kingdom.

Suresh has been elected a fellow or honorary fellow by all major materials societies in the United States and India, including the Materials Research Society, the American Society for Materials International; The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society; the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the American Ceramic Society; the Indian Institute of Metals; and the Materials Research Society of India.

He became a member of the board of directors of Battelle in August 2014. He is a director of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and a member of the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. In April 2015, he was awarded the IRI Medal by the Industrial Research Institute.[20]


  1. ^ "Carnegie Mellon University.". 
  2. ^ a b "Carnegie Mellon Selects Ninth President" (Press release). Carnegie Mellon University. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  3. ^ White House, Press Secretary (2 June 2013). "Statement from the President on the Departure of Subra Suresh". Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "Suresh Is New Dean of Engineering". MIT News. 14 June 2007. 
  5. ^ MIT. "Subra Suresh to head National Science Foundation". MIT. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Mervis, Jeffrey (11 June 2010). "Obama's Nominee to Lead NSF Lauded for Science and Management Skills". Science. 328 (5984): 1340–1341. doi:10.1126/science.328.5984.1340-a. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  7. ^ Jones, R.M. (2010). "Senate Confirms Subra Suresh as National Science Foundation Director". FYI: the AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News (103). Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Hand, E. (2011). "Merit comes first: National Science Foundation director Subra Suresh reveals how his agency is coping with a grim fiscal outlook". Nature. 477 (7364): 263. doi:10.1038/477263a. PMID 21921894. 
  9. ^ National Science Foundation. "NSF Fact Sheet" (PDF). 
  10. ^ Morrissey, Susan (23 January 2012). "Subra Suresh". Chemical & Engineering News. 90 (4): 9–12. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  11. ^ "Arctic Research Plan 2013–2017" (PDF). Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  12. ^ Suresh, Subra (12 August 2011). "Moving Toward Global Science". Science. 333 (6044): 802. doi:10.1126/science.1210025. PMID 21835985. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  13. ^ "Statement of Principles for Scientific Merit Review*" (PDF). Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  14. ^ "Global Summit on Merit Review". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  15. ^ Suresh, S. (25 May 2012). "Cultivating Global Science". Science. 336 (6084): 959. doi:10.1126/science.1224580. PMID 22628620. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  16. ^ Thomson Reuters. "Top 100 Materials Scientists". Science Watch. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  17. ^ "P Rama Rao Gets Padma Vibhushan; Padma Shri for Subra Suresh". The Times of India – Times Now. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  18. ^ Franklin Institute. "Press Release". Franklin Institute. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  19. ^ "Benjamin Franklin Medal in Mechanical Engineering". Franklin Institute. 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2013. 
  20. ^ "2015 Medalist". Retrieved 8 September 2015. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Arden L. Bement, Jr.
Director of the National Science Foundation
Succeeded by
Cora Bagley Marrett (Acting)
Academic offices
Preceded by
Jared Cohon
President, Carnegie Mellon University