2011 IBB Distinguished Lecture

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"Investigation of Human Diseases at the Intersections of Engineering, Natural Sciences and Medicine"

Subra Suresh - Director, United States National Science Foundation

Major advances in various branches of engineering and natural sciences, together with transformational developments in information technology, computational modeling and simulation, genetics, genomics, and nanotechnology, have provided unprecedented opportunities to explore human health and diseases at the cellular and molecular levels. Such developments have also facilitated new opportunities to study fundamental mechanistic processes with the goal of developing basic scientific understanding, new diagnostic tools, and novel therapeutics for a range of human diseases and disorders. This presentation will provides an overview of some recent accomplishments and opportunities for future exploration. Specific examples are drawn from the study of infectious diseases, hereditary blood disorders, and cancer.

Subra Suresh was sworn in as director of the National Science Foundation on October 18, 2010, and is the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering (on leave) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds joint faculty appointments in Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Biological Engineering, and Health Sciences and Technology. Suresh’s work as a researcher, educator, and academic administrator across a wide range of disciplines—including mechanical engineering, materials science, and biomedical engineering—have been recognized by academic and professional organizations around the world. His experimental and computational modeling work on the mechanical properties of structural and functional materials, his innovations in materials design and characterization, and his discoveries regarding the connections between cellular nanomechanics and human diseases such as malaria have shaped new fields at the intersections of traditional disciplines. More than 100 students, post-doctoral associates, and research scientists who trained in his group occupy prominent positions in academe, industry, and government throughout the world. He has authored or co-authored three books: Fatigue of Materials, Fundamentals of Functionally Graded Materials, and Thin Film Materials. Suresh made far-reaching contributions as a graduate student, parent, faculty member, and dean over three decades at MIT. While serving as department head in Materials Science and Engineering from 2000 to 2006, he renovated highly visible spaces along the Infinite Corridor to give the general public an insider’s view of modern materials research and instruction, and, in partnership with the Physics Department, he helped launch the Physics-DMSE-Spectroscopy-Infrastructure (PDSI) project. Suresh was founding chair of the first Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) Programme on Advanced Materials for Micro and Nano Systems and was the Institute’s lead coordinator on the creation of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Center. Suresh’s interests in international, inter-institutional, and inter-disciplinary collaboration led in 2005 to the creation of Global Enterprise for MicroMechanics and Molecular Medicine (GEM4), whose membership now includes more than 12 institutions from around the world. During Suresh’s tenure as Dean the School of Engineering added more than 50 new faculty members to its ranks—more than 10% of its total. Under his leadership, the School pioneered new interdepartmental faculty searches and recruited high numbers of women and under-represented minorities to the faculty; in 2009-10, for the first time in its history, more women than men joined the faculty of MIT’s School of Engineering. Suresh also oversaw the creation of a several new initiatives: the Center for Computational Engineering, the Transportation@MIT initiative, the Bernard Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, the creation and renovation of a number of laboratory facilities, and the MIT Flexible Engineering Degree Program.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Colly Mitchell
  • Created: 04/19/2011
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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