Former CMU President receives National Medal of Science

On Oct. 24, former Carnegie Mellon President Subra Suresh received the National Medal of Science from President Joe Biden alongside eight other scientists and engineers for their “outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, or social and behavioral sciences, in service to the Nation.” Dr. Suresh, who was president of Carnegie Mellon from 2013 to 2017, was awarded the medal for his innovative work in the fields of biology, materials science, mechanical engineering, medicine, and their intersections.

Early in his career, Dr. Suresh published the book Fatigue of Materials, considered by many to be an essential text in the field of materials science. Dr. Suresh’s contributions to microbiology helped uncover how red blood cells infected with malaria affect blood microcirculation.

Before coming to Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Suresh had served as a professor at Brown University (where he is currently a professor at large, a professor elected by a Board of Trustees under a recommendation of the University’s President), a professor and dean at MIT (where he is also currently a professor), and the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). While directing the NSF, Dr. Suresh created several highly productive yet low-cost programs, such as the Innovation Corps, and worked to increase the gender diversity of STEM fields through programs like the NSF’s Career-Life Balance initiative.

As president of Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Suresh led many valuable initiatives, such as the funding and construction of the Tepper Quadrangle, the establishment of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, and the formation of a partnership between the university and Tata Consultancy Services, resulting in the receipt of the largest industrial and largest international gift the university had ever received. Another of Dr. Suresh’s main focuses during his presidency was to increase diversity among Carnegie Mellon's faculty and student body. To achieve that goal, Dr. Suresh created the Presidential Fellowship and Scholarship program, which continues to support students today.

Some of Dr. Suresh’s other honors include the Padma Shri award from the government of India, the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor from the government of France, and positions in the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering.