The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have selected Suresh Babu as the next director of their jointly operated Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.
Babu will retain his position as UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing when he assumes his new role on January 3. He will be replacing Lee Riedinger, who is retiring at the end of January.
“Dr. Babu has worked extensively with both UT and ORNL through his Governor’s Chair position, and we’re excited about him taking on this new role,” UT Knoxville Interim Chancellor Wayne T. Davis said. “He is a nationally recognized expert in the development of advanced materials and advanced manufacturing and has helped us emerge as a leader in those critical research areas.”
Babu, who holds a faculty appointment in the Tickle College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering at UT, has helped the university take part in a wide variety of initiatives since his arrival in 2013.
Among his many accomplishments, in just the past five years, Babu has:
- Been a key figure in IACMI—The Composites Institute, a $259 million UT-led institution that has industry, research, government, and university partners across 37 states
- Helped foster UT’s partnerships with Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) and the Manufacturing and Materials Joining Innovation Center
- Been invited to the White House for an event detailing new materials and manufacturing techniques
- Been selected by the US Navy to lead a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative—the first time a UT professor has been chosen for the award
- Been instrumental in the launch of local small businesses focused on advanced manufacturing led by UT students
“Dr. Riedinger has positioned the Bredesen Center as one of the key partnerships between UT and ORNL and has developed it into a beacon among UT’s graduate programs,” Babu said. “I am honored to have been chosen to continue the good work that he has generated through the center and also to work with UT students who are destined to be global thought leaders while providing tangible local impact.”
Babu’s connections to UT and ORNL go back much further than his current tenure. He served as a research professor at UT in 1996–97 and on ORNL’s research and development staff from 1997 to 2005.
He currently conducts a large amount of groundbreaking research at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility in Hardin Valley with ORNL research staff, UT students and professors, and government agencies and industries. The facility houses a variety of devices used to develop materials, from the smallest test bed to massive printers that can print houses and cars.
“Dr. Babu’s leadership in advanced manufacturing research has strengthened the partnership between UT and ORNL,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “He brings with him a proven ability to develop the next generation of world-leading scientific and engineering talent.”
The Bredesen Center began in 2010 as a response to then-governor Phil Bredesen’s vision for developing stronger connections between UT and ORNL.
Riedinger has overseen the center since its start, with the original doctoral program in energy science and engineering joined by a second program, in data science and engineering, in 2017.
As of fall 2018, there were 132 students collectively enrolled in the two programs, which draw from several UT colleges.