Desai named to National Academy of Engineering

Brown Engineering Dean receives one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has elected Brown University Sorensen Family Dean of Engineering Tejal A. Desai to its newest membership class, honoring her distinguished contributions to engineering, “for nanofabricated materials to control biologics delivery, and leadership in the fields of nanotechnology and regenerative medicine.”  Membership in the NAE is considered one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer and Desai’s selection brings to six the number of current Brown faculty members in the NAE. 

“I am deeply honored by this recognition, and am grateful for all my colleagues and trainees who have supported me over my career,”  said Desai. 

Desai is one of 114 new members and 21 international members elected, and brings the total U.S. membership to 2,310 and the number of international members to 332. 

“I am thrilled for Tejal’s election into the National Academy of Engineering. As a biomedical engineer and academic leader, Tejal’s work is essential as Brown endeavors to address society’s most pressing public health and treatment challenges. This is a well-deserved honor that showcases the incredible expertise we have in our faculty and the outstanding contributions Tejal has made to her field,” noted Brown University Provost and NAE member Frank Doyle.

Desai assumed the role of Dean of Engineering at Brown University in September of 2022. An accomplished biomedical engineer and academic leader, Desai’s research spans multiple disciplines including materials engineering, cell biology, tissue engineering, and pharmacological delivery systems to develop new therapeutic interventions for disease. She seeks to design new platforms, enabled by advances in micro and nanotechnology, to overcome existing challenges in therapeutic delivery. She has published over 260 peer-reviewed articles and patents. Her research efforts have earned numerous recognition including Technology Review’s “Top 100 Young Innovators,” Popular Science’s Brilliant 10, and the Dawson Biotechnology Award. She was President of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2020-2022) and is a fellow of AIMBE, IAMBE, CRS, and BMES. In 2015, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and in 2019 to the National Academy of Inventors. She recently delivered the 2023 Robert A. Pritzker Distinguished Lecture at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting, the highest BMES honor bestowed upon one individual who has demonstrated impactful leadership and accomplishments in biomedical engineering science and practice.

Prior to coming to Brown, she was the Deborah Cowan Endowed Professor of the Department of Bioengineering & Therapeutic Sciences at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); and Professor in Residence, Department of Bioengineering, UC Berkeley (UCB). She served as director of the NIH training grant for the Joint UCSF/UCB Graduate Program in Bioengineering for over 15 years, and founding director of the UCSF/UCB Masters Program in Translational Medicine. She was also chair of the department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF from 2014-2021 and the Inaugural Director of the UCSF Engineering and Applied Sciences Initiative known as HIVE (Health Innovation Via Engineering).

A vocal advocate for education and outreach to historically underrepresented groups in STEM, Desai’s work to break down institutional barriers to equity and cultivate a climate of inclusion has earned numerous honors and awards, including the AWIS Judith Poole Award in Mentorship, the 2021 UCSF Chancellor’s Award for the Advancement of Women, and the 2022 Controlled Release Woman in Science Award. As president of AIMBE (2020-2022), she led advocacy efforts for increased scientific funding and addressing workforce disparities in science/engineering. To foster the next generation of scientists, she was involved in the SF Science Education partnership and has worked with outreach organizations such as the Lawrence Hall of Science, PBS, and the UN Women’s council to develop hand-on exhibits and videos related to nanotechnology and women in engineering.

She received her undergraduate degree from Brown University in biomedical engineering in 1994, and was awarded a Ph.D. in bioengineering jointly from UCSF and UC Berkeley in 1998.

Desai becomes the 19th current or former Brown engineering faculty member elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Current faculty members include Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor of Applied Mathematics and Engineering George Karniadakis (elected 2022), Provost Frank Doyle (elected 2021), Joan Wernig and E. Paul Sorensen Professor Linda Abriola (elected 2003), Professor at Large Subra Suresh (elected 2002), and Rush C. Hawkins University Professor Emeritus and Professor (Research) Rod Clifton (elected 1989). Other members include: Walter H. Annenberg Professor Emeritus Huajian Gao, (elected 2012), Otis E. Randall Professor Emeritus Clyde Briant (elected 2010), Michael Ortiz (elected 2013), Choon Fong Shih (elected 2004), Professor Emeritus Alan Needleman (elected 2000), Professor Emeritus L.B. Freund (elected 1994), Richard Goldstein (elected 1985), Joseph Kestin (elected 1982), James R. Rice (elected 1980), Ronald Probstein (elected 1977), John Gilman (elected 1975), Daniel C. Drucker (elected 1967), and William Prager (elected 1965).

She becomes the 24th Brown engineering graduate in the NAE, joining an exclusive list that includes: Steven Cramer ’78 (elected 2023), Wook Hyun Kwon Ph.D. ’76 (elected 2022), Horacio Espinosa Sc.M.’89, Sc.M’90, Ph.D.’92, P’02 (elected 2020), Lallit Anand Sc.M. ’72 Ph.D. ’75 (elected 2018), Wei Yang Ph.D. ’85 (elected 2018), Sangeeta Bhatia ’90 (elected 2015), Guruswami Ravichandran Sc.M. ’83 Ph.D. ’87 (elected 2015), H. David Hibbitt Ph.D. ’72 (elected 2013), Enrique Lavernia ’82 (elected 2013), Ares J. Rosakis Sc.M. ’80 Ph.D. ’83 (elected 2011), John Kim Sc.M. ’74 (elected 2009), Jean-Yves Parlange Ph.D. ’62 (elected 2006), Alan I. Taub ’76 (elected 2006), Robert M. McMeeking Ph.D. ’75 (elected 2005), Chain T. Liu Sc.M. ’64 Ph.D. ’67 (elected 2004), Hratch Gregory Semerjian Sc.M. ’68 Ph.D. ’72 (elected 2000), Marc S. Newkirk ’69 (elected 1997), Wai-Fah Chen Ph.D. ’66 (elected 1995), George J. Dvorak Ph.D. ’69 (elected 1995), T. Dixon Dudderar Ph.D. ’66 (elected 1992), William F. Allen ’41 (elected 1986), Walter J. Weber ’56 (elected 1985), and Thomas O. Paine ’42 (elected 1973).