WPI Professor Named to Virginia Tech Academy of Engineering Excellence

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Richard Sisson

Richard Sisson, George Fuller Professor of Mechanical Engineering at WPI, center, receives an award signifying his membership in the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Academy of Engineering Excellence from David Clark, head of Virginia Tech's Materials Science and Engineering Department, left, and Richard C. Benson, dean of the university's College of Engineering.

WORCESTER, Mass. - Richard D. Sisson Jr., George F. Fuller Professor of mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and director of WPI's Manufacturing Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering programs, has been named to the Academy of Engineering Excellence at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Sisson received a B.S. in materials engineering from the Institute in 1969.

The Academy of Engineering Excellence honors engineering graduates of Virginia Tech who have made sustained and meritorious engineering or leadership contributions during their careers. Sisson was inducted on May 9 with seven other graduates, bringing the academy's membership to 61, out of approximately 50,000 living alumni.

After graduating from Virginia Tech, Sisson worked briefly in industry before earning a master's (1971) and a Ph.D. (1975) in metallurgical engineering from Purdue University. He then spent two years as a research metallurgist for E. I. DuPont at the Savannah River Laboratory in Aiken, S.C., where he developed plutonium dioxide that acted as a heat source for nuclear batteries. In 1976, he joined the WPI faculty as Morgan Distinguished Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

He returned to Virginia Tech in 1979 as assistant professor of materials engineering, conducting research in the Institute's environmental degradation of engineering materials laboratory. After two years, he headed north to take a position as staff engineer for Exxon Chemical Co. in Florham Park, N.J. A year later, deciding that he preferred the challenges and rewards of academia, he rejoined the WPI faculty, where he was named a full professor in 1986. In addition to directing the Manufacturing Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering programs, Sisson served as interim head of WPI's Mechanical Engineering Department from 1999 to 2000.

An internationally recognized researcher in materials engineering and metals processing, his work focuses on the applications of thermodynamics and kinetics to materials processing and degradation phenomena in metals and ceramics. He has more than 160 publications and an equal number of technical presentations on topics ranging from synthesis of nanocrystalline ceramics to hydrogen embrittlement of high-strength steels to heat treating and quenching of steels and aluminum alloys.

In his research, some of which is conducted through WPI's Metal Processing Institute, a university-industry partnership with more than 130 corporate members, he promotes of the concept of environmentally benign materials processing, an aspect of green engineering. "We must have a holistic view of the entire life cycle of materials," he says. "And we have to understand that true environmentally benign processing requires an up-front commitment at the start of the design process."

Between 1994 and 1999, Sisson was the director of the National Science Foundation's Product REALIZATION Consortium, a coalition of five universities that worked to reform undergraduate manufacturing engineering education for the 21st century. He also founded and directs the Learning Factory, a collaboration between WPI and Pratt & Whitney through which WPI students complete applied projects at Pratt & Whitney's jet engine manufacturing plant in East Hartford, Conn.

Sisson has received numerous awards and honors for his research and educational activities, including the WPI Board of Trustees' Award for Outstanding Teaching. He was named a fellow of the American Society for Materials (ASM) International in 1993 and an ASM Trustee in 2002. He is currently vice president of the ASM's Heat Treat Society.

In addition to ASM, he is a member of the Society for Manufacturing Engineers, the Metallurgical Society of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, the American Ceramic Society, the American Society for Engineering Education, the Electrochemical Society, and the National Association for Corrosion Engineers.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1865 in Worcester, Mass., WPI was one of the first engineering and technology universities in the nation. WPI's 18 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, management, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts, leading to the BS, MS, ME, MBA and PhD. WPI's world-class faculty work with students in a number of cutting-edge research areas, leading to breakthroughs and innovations in such fields as biotechnology, fuel cells, nanotechnology, and information security. Students also have the opportunity to make a difference to communities and organizations around the world through our innovative Global Perspectives program. There are over 20 WPI project centers throughout North America and Central America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and Europe.