Tresa M. Pollock

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
University of Michigan
BSMetE '84

For her leading research on high-temperature materials and leadership in the broad field of Materials Science and Engineering

Tresa Pollock was a first-generation college student when she enrolled at Purdue in 1979. She wanted to study something that would help her make an impact on technological and societal problems, so she chose what was then known as metallurgical engineering. Little did she know she would never really leave college and that her impact would come through a life as a teacher, mentor, and internationally respected researcher in high temperature materials for aircraft propulsion and energy generation.

Pollock didn't plan to go into academics. When she completed her doctorate in materials science and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she considered jobs in industry, research laboratories, and academic institutions, opting for a position with GE Aircraft Engines. Two years later, she opted out-joining the Materials Science and Engineering faculty at Carnegie-Mellon University. She moved to the University of Michigan in 2000.

While at Purdue, Pollock was a co-op student with Allison Gas Turbine (now Rolls Royce) in Indianapolis. Her research still focuses on aircraft engine alloys and the needs of the aerospace industry. In recent years, her work has expanded to structural materials challenges in the automotive and energy generation sectors. She approaches her subject by building links between industry, academia, and professional societies.

"Collaboration among fields for the solution of complex, multidisciplinary problems is exciting to me," she says. "We have some big challenges in the next couple of decades in energy, transportation, the environment, climate, space, genetics, and healthcare, to name a few."

Pollock's research has been recognized internationally with numerous awards—including the Lee Hsun Award of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute for Metals Research—but she turns to teaching when asked about her biggest impact on the world. It will come from the students in her laboratory and what they accomplish, she says. The lab's research on high temperature materials for turbine engines—particularly nickel-based superalloys—has already had an impact in industry, where it has helped improve the efficiency and safety of almost every jet engine in use today.

Pollock has been as dedicated to her discipline's professional societies as she has to her research and teaching, particularly through leadership of the Minerals, Metals and Materials (TMS) Society. She is helping shape the future of engineering through work with groups such as the National Academy of Engineering, for which she organized the 2007 German-American Frontiers of Engineering meeting and undertook studies on "Integrated Computational Materials Engineering" and "Materials Science and Engineering: Forging Stronger Links to Users."

"Within engineering, we need to continue to develop a culture of collaboration to address the complex issues of the next few decades. I believe that universities will play an increasingly important role in keeping the U.S. economy healthy," she says. "In the U.S., we need more leaders with technical expertise to make progress on these problems and we need to increase the diversity of the people involved in solving them."

Career Highlights

2005 President
TMS: The Minerals, Metals and
Materials Society
Elected to the National Academy of Engineering
TMS Magnesium Technology Award
Lee Hsun Award
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Institute for Metals Research
2000- L.H. and F.E. Van Vlack Professor
Materials Science and Engineering
University of Michigan
1999 ASM Silver Medal Research Award
1997 Outstanding Materials Engineer
Purdue University
1996-98 Visiting researcher, General Electric
Corporate, Research and Development
1995 ASM Bradley Stoughton Award
Visiting researcher, Rockwell
International Science Center
1992 Young Investigator Award
National Science Foundation
1991-99 Professor of Materials Science
and Engineering
Carnegie-Mellon University
1989-91 Materials research engineer General Electric Aircraft Engines,
Engineering Materials Technology

PhD '89 (Materials Science Engineering)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BSMetE '84, Purdue University