John W. Sutherland elected to the National Academy of Engineering

John W. Sutherland, professor and the Fehsenfeld Family Head of Environmental and Ecological Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his research contributions to environmental sustainability in manufacturing and their implementation in industry.

Election to NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. The NAE elected 106 new members and 18 international members in the latest class, bringing the total U.S. membership to 2,420 and the number of international members to 319. 

This honor is the culmination of a distinguished career for Dr. Sutherland, whose awards include an AAESP/AAEES Frederick George Pohland Medal (2022) for sustained and outstanding efforts to bridge environmental engineering research, education, and practice. 

Dr. Sutherland was honored for his election to NAE at a reception sponsored by the Purdue College of Engineering on April 28, 2023. Remarks on his career accomplishments were delivered by Dr. Arvind Raman, John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering, Robert V. Adams Professor in Mechanical Engineering, and Professor of Materials Engineering; Dr. Patrick J. Wolfe, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Diversity; and Dr. Luna Lu, Associate Dean of Faculty for the College of Engineering, Acting Head and Reilly Professor of Civil Engineering.

John W. Sutherland (left) is awarded a crystal bowl from Dean Arvind Raman (right) on April 28, 2023 in honor of Sutherland's election to the National Academy of Engineering.

 “I am honored and humbled to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering,” Sutherland said. “This recognition would not have been possible without my supportive family, fantastic mentors, and amazing students and colleagues. I have also significantly benefited from being in one of the most distinctive academic departments in the country: Environmental and Ecological Engineering (EEE). The unique character of EEE has helped many of us make innovative impacts, and in just over ten years we have grown to be one of the largest environmental engineering programs in the nation.”

Beginning in the early 1990s, Sutherland pioneered the establishment of the field of sustainable manufacturing, which seeks to maximize the effective use of resources while minimizing environmental impacts. Since then, he has helped to make the environment a well-recognized consideration in the design of products and manufacturing processes and systems. This has enabled leading manufacturers to produce less waste and consume less energy and resources, all while being more economically competitive.

Left to right: Luna Lu, Arvind Raman, John W. Sutherland, and Patrick J. Wolfe pose at the Purdue College of Engineering's reception on April 28, 2023 in the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering. 

At the reception honoring his election to the National Academy of Engineering, Sutherland discussed what led him to pursue sustainable manufacturing. 

"When I assumed my first faculty position, I spoke with many university and industry colleagues," Sutherland explains. "One exasperated environmental engineering faculty member related that much of their time was spent cleaning up the waste streams created by manufacturing. In other words, they were having to develop add-on engineering systems to contain, control, and treat waste streams so as to reduce the amount and toxicity of waste being released by manufacturing facilities. I realized that this was analogous to how companies used inspection to contain and mitigate, but not eliminate their quality problems. So, at that point I decided I would start doing research to combat sources of waste in manufacturing. Over time these process innovations almost always help companies be more competitive in addition to reducing their environmental impact." 

Watch the reception honoring John W. Sutherland's election to the NAE on April 28, 2023.

Sutherland has collaborated with scores of company partners and been supported by many government agencies on numerous research projects. He has conducted studies to reduce the environmental footprint of manufacturing processes that identified key factors and mechanisms associated with energy consumption, cutting fluids and aerosol formation. He has been a leader in rethinking product life cycles and how end-of-life products are managed. More recently, he has investigated green manufacturing planning, which combines environmentally oriented considerations with traditional measures of productivity.

In addition to making environmental sustainability a critical manufacturing consideration, Sutherland has made substantial contributions to engineering education. He has instructed thousands of students in engineering courses and mentored over 100 graduate students. He has published more than 400 papers in various journals and conference proceedings and co-authored a textbook titled, Statistical Quality Design and Control: Contemporary Concepts and Methods.

Sutherland ended his reception remarks by thanking the many individuals who helped him reach this career milestone, including his wife Brenda, their daughters Jenny and Beth, and his graduate advisor, Richard DeVor.