SPE® Announces 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for 2016 #SPEInnovationAwards


Dr. Lawrence T. Drzal, university distinguished professor of Chemical Engineering and director-Composite Materials and Structures Center at Michigan State University’s College of Engineering (MSU, East Lansing, Mich., U.S.A.), has been named the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award winner by the Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE®). Drzal, the first academic winner of the award, is a composites expert who has specialized in surface and interfacial aspects of adhesively bonded joints plus the fiber / matrix interphase in composite materials and their processing; adhesion fundamentals; sustainable bio-based structural composite materials; and nanocomposite materials. During his career Drzal has given over 400 invited presentations at national and international conferences, published over 375 research papers, and has been awarded 35 patents. He will be honored for his role leading transportation composites innovations at the 46th-annual Automotive Innovation Awards Gala on November 9, 2016 at Burton Manor in Livonia, Mich.

First given in 2000, the SPE Automotive Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the technical achievements of individuals whose work – in research, design, and/or engineering – has led to significant integration of polymeric materials on passenger vehicles.  Past winners include:

  • T. Battenberg III, then chairman and chief-executive officer of Delphi Corp.;
  • Bernard Robertson, then executive vice-president of DaimlerChrysler;
  • Robert Schaad, chairman of Husky Injection Molding Systems, Ltd.;
  • Tom Moore, retired vice-president, Liberty and Technical Affairs at then DaimlerChrysler;
  • Shigeki Suzuki, general manager – Materials Division, Toyota Motor Co.;
  • Barbara Sanders, then director-Advanced Development & Engineering Processes, Delphi Corp.;
  • Josh Madden, retired executive at General Motors Corp. (GM) & Volkswagen of America;
  • Frank Macher, former CEO of Collins & Aikman Corp., Federal Mogul Corp., and ITT Automotive;
  • Irv Poston, retired head of the Plastics (Composites) Development-Technical Center, GM.;
  • Allan Murray, Ph.D., retired technology director at Ford Motor Co.;
  • David B. Reed P.E., retired staff engineer, Product Engineering, GM;
  • Gary Lownsdale, P.E., then chief technology officer, Plasan Carbon Composites;
  • Roy Sjöberg, P.E., retired staff engineer – Body, Chevrolet-Pontiac-Canada Div.,GM and retired executive engineer-Viper Project, Chrysler Corp.;
  • Norm Kakarala, retired senior technical fellow, Inteva Products LLC; and
  • Fredrick Deans, P.E., chief marketing officer, Allied Composite Technologies LLC.

Lawrence Drzal LRDrzal credits his early engineering and co-op training coupled with his industrial and military service for his “problem-definition approach to research, which has been characterized by observation of phenomena and identification of unresolved problems with common themes around technological advancement, sustainability, environmental friendliness, and benefit to society.” As a result, Drzal says he always has had the desire to provide both practical knowledge and fundamental knowledge in each research area and the research project he and his students have undertaken.

He is a founding member of both the Adhesion Society and the American Society for Composites and has served as president (1998-1999) of the Adhesion Society. He has chaired the Gordon Conference on Adhesion and the Gordon Conference on Composites and has served in many other professional activities related to chemical engineering, composite materials, and adhesion. He served on the editorial board of journals in the adhesion and composite materials fields (Composites Part A:  Applied Science and Manufacturing; Journal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy; Carbon Letters; and Nanocomposites) and was associate editor of the Journal of Adhesion.

Over his long and distinguished career, Drzal has received numerous honors and awards including:

  • 2016, University of Delaware’s Medal of Excellence in Composite Materials;
  • 2008, Best Technical Paper Award, Thermoset Division, Society of Plastics Engineers;
  • 2006, Fellow, Society for the Advancement of Materials and Process Engineering (SAMPE);
  • 2006, Educator of the Year, Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) – Composites Division;
  • 2005, Best Paper Award, Coatings for Plastics Symposium;
  • 2004, Fellow, SPE;
  • 2004, Fellow, American Society for Composites (ASC);
  • 2003, Highly Cited Materials Science Researcher, ISI;
  • 2003, Best Paper Award, SPE Composites Division, ANTEC 2003;;
  • 2002, Fellow, American Institute of Chemists, Adhesion;
  • 2002, Robert Patrick Fellow, The Adhesion Society, Adhesion Science;
  • 2002, Member, European Academy of Sciences, Adhesion and Surface Modification of Polymers;
  • 2002, Fellowship, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science;
  • 1997, University Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University;
  • 1997, 1994, 1993, 1991, Best Performing Research Award, Michigan Materials and Processing Institute;
  • 1997, Best Paper Award, ASC;
  • 1996, Technomic Award, ASC, Outstanding Achievement in Research, Education and Service in the Field of Composite Materials;
  • 1994, Award for Excellence in Adhesion Science Research, 3M and The Adhesion Society, Adhesion Science;
  • 1993, Distinguished Faculty Award, Michigan State University;
  • 1992, Edwin P. Plueddemann Award, Dow Corning and International Conference on Composite Interfaces, Excellence in Composites Interfacial Research;
  • 1992, Withrow Distinguished Scholar Award, College of Engineering, Michigan State University;
  • 1990, Best Academic Paper Award, Advanced Composites Conference;
  • 1983, Best Paper Award, SAMPE Technical Conference;
  • 1981, US Air Force (USAF) Scientific Achievement Award, USAF Systems Command;
  • 1979, Charles J. Cleary Award, USAF Materials Laboratory, Scientific Materials Research Award;
  • 1968-1971, National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Traineeship, Case Western Reserve University; and
  • 1967, Engineer of the Year, College of Engineering, University of Detroit.


Drzal earned a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Detroit and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and Polymer Science from Case Western Reserve University. He joined MSU’s College of Engineering as a professor of Chemical Engineering in 1985 and became director of the school’s Composite Materials & Structures Center in 1986. A decade later, he became a university distinguished professor of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science.

On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, Drzal will be honored for his significant contributions to transportation composites at the 46th-annual SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala at Burton Manor, where winning part nominations and the teams that developed them will be honored during an evening that celebrates automotive plastics innovation. The evening begins with a VIP Cocktail Reception at 4:30 p.m. sponsored by Celanese Corp.  At 5:00 p.m. the main exhibit area opens for general admission and guests can review this year’s Automotive Innovation Awards part nominations, as well as enjoy the specialty and antique vehicles that always are a highlight of the show.  Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the awards program itself will last from 7:00-9:00 p.m.  For those who wish to extend merrymaking and networking activities, the ever-popular Afterglow – also sponsored by Celanese – runs from 9:00-11:00 p.m.

SPE’s Automotive Innovation Awards Program is the oldest and largest competition of its kind in the world. Dozens of teams made up of OEMs, tier suppliers, and polymer producers submit nominations describing their part, system, or complete vehicle and why it merits the claim as the Year’s Most Innovative Use of Plastics.  This annual event typically draws over 700 OEM engineers, automotive and plastics industry executives, and media.  As is customary, funds raised from this event are used to support SPE educational efforts and technical seminars, which help educate and secure the role of plastics in the advancement of the automobile.

Learn more:  http://speautomotive.com/inno and http://speautomotive.com/awa.

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