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Professor of Engineering Huajian Gao was elected to the National Academy of Engineering Feb. 9, earning one of the highest honors an engineer can receive. Vice President for Research Clyde Briant was the last person from the University named to the academy two years ago, and before him, no one had been named since 2000.

"I was very excited and honored to join the prestigious club of scholars," Gao said. He thanked his colleagues at the University and the academy for the honor.

According to the academy's news release, Gao was recognized for his "contributions to micromechanics of thin films and hierarchically structured materials."

Gao's research focuses on understanding how microscopic structures affect the properties and behaviors of substances, such as bone, protein, DNA and thin films, he said.

His research began prior to joining the University in 2006. After receiving master's and doctoral degrees in engineering science from Harvard in 1984 and 1988, respectively, he taught at Stanford University between 1988 and 2002 and at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Germany from 2001 to 2006.

At Brown, he continued his research with the Solid Mechanics group, a subgroup of the School of Engineering. The group already had an established history, and Gao is now one of its leading members, said Larry Larson, dean of the School of Engineering.

Gao's election has positive implications for the School of Engineering, Larson said. It increases the national visibility of the University's program and helps it attract more graduate students, who in turn can aid undergraduate researchers, he added.

Gao said his research fits into the University's programs on nano and microtechnology and biomedical engineering, and he added that he is pleased the University has put emphasis on such programs.

Briant called Gao's election "a great honor for him and for Brown."

"If you look at engineering departments and schools of engineering across the country, figures of merit, if you will, are how many of the faculty are in the Academy of Engineering," Briant said.

The National Academy of Engineering was founded in 1964 to promote the engineering profession nationally and advise the federal government on issues concerning engineering and technology, according to its website.

The academy consists of more than 2,000 peer-elected members and foreign associates. Gao was among 66 newly elected members, who are some of the world's most distinguished engineers, according to a National Academies' news release. Prominent members of the academy include Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.  

— With additional reporting by Shefali Luthra


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