Department Chair Manuel and MSE Alumna Singh Elected to National Academy of Engineering

The National Academy of Engineering has elected Michele Manuel, Ph.D., and Deepika Singh, Ph.D., to join the organization’s ranks, among the highest professional honors in engineering for those who have distinguished themselves in academia, private industry or government agencies.

Michele Manuel, Ph.D.
Michele Manuel, Ph.D.

Dr. Manuel, who is chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is recognized for her research, implementation and teaching involving dissolving medical implants for surgery as well as self-healing metals and lightweight, high-performance alloys.

In the airline and aerospace industries, as an example, she contributed to the development of self-repairing metals that mend cracks caused by stress and fatigue without the need for skilled technicians or direct contact. Traditionally, the airline industry relies heavily on metallic materials, such as aluminum alloys, that can crack or even fail under the physical stress of frequent reloading. Repairing these fissures typically requires additional materials, an expert in repair techniques or even the replacement of entire components of the air or spacecraft. The self-repairing alloys are also more robust than the traditional repair technology.

Dr. Manuel received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida and a Ph.D. at Northwestern University, both in materials science and engineering. She then worked for NASA and General Motors Corp. before joining UF Materials Science and Engineering faculty as an assistant professor in 2008. In 2017, she was appointed as the first woman and person of color to hold the position of department chair in the department’s 60 plus-year history.

“Dr. Manuel is emblematic of the New Engineer who emerges from our college. Her research has given NASA and other industries game-changing technology and her leadership as chair of our department of Materials Science and Engineering lends immeasurable inspiration to our Gator Engineering students and graduates,” said Cammy Abernathy, Ph.D., dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. “We’re honored to share the news of this well-deserved accolade. Congratulations, Michele!”

Dr. Manuel has received wide recognition for her teaching, research and leadership, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2013), NSF CAREER (2009), NASA Early Career Faculty (2012), American Society of Metals (ASM) Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers (2013), ASM Fellow (2017), The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) Early Career Faculty Fellow Award (2014), and many more.

She has edited five books, published over 60 peer-reviewed journal publications, contributed to over 100 technical presentations, been issued 15 patents and garnered nearly $40 million in research grants as primary investigator.

Deepika Singh, Ph.D.
Deepika Singh, Ph.D.

Dr. Singh, founder and CEO of R&D Investment Holdings, LLC, was recognized for her manufacturing innovation and entrepreneurship of Chemical-Mechanical Planarization (CMP) technologies for wide band-gap semiconductors and superhard materials-related products. 

 The ultra-hard materials used in making next-generation, advanced semiconductors, such as silicon carbide, gallium nitride and diamond, exhibit low polish rates due to their extreme hardness and chemical inertness. As a result, polishing these materials without creating defects that may affect chip performance is exceedingly challenging. Dr. Singh invented and commercialized CMP processes that use novel chemistries and particles to enhance reactions resulting in significantly higher polishing rates while also improving the finish and eliminating sub-surface damage. In the case of silicon carbide, the CMP process decreased polishing times from more than 50 hours to around one and reduced manufacturing costs by more than 90%. 

Sinmat, the company she co-founded and ran as president, was grown from a small business to a leading global supplier of CMP technologies to some of the world’s top manufacturers of smartwatches and phones, electric vehicles and advanced defense electronics. In 2020, she successfully managed the ~$75 million acquisition of Sinmat by Entegris Inc., a worldwide supplier of specialized materials and chemicals to the semiconductor industry. 

Dr. Singh received her master’s degree at the University of Florida and a Ph.D. at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, both in materials science and engineering. 

Dr. Singh is a recipient of numerous industry honors, including four R&D100 awards, a Manufacturing Business of the Year award and a commendation from President Obama praising her service to the nation for developing new ways to manufacture microchips that help power smarter energy systems She has over 30 patents, contributed to multiple technical publications, and received $9 million in research grants as primary investigator. 

As head of R&D Investment Holdings, she is currently exploring investment opportunities in emerging innovative materials and technology companies and developing strategies to help improve the educational outcomes of underrepresented minorities. 

The National Academy of Engineering will formally induct the newest members during its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in October.