Brown receives MechSE Distinguished Alumni Award


Stef Anderson

Eric Brown
Eric Brown

MechSE alumnus Eric Brown earned the 2020 MechSE Distinguished Alumni Award for his extensive career accomplishments and contributions to the scientific community.

Brown graduated from Illinois with his BSME (’98), MSTAM (’01) and PhDTAM (’03) and joined Los Alamos National Laboratory to continue his post-doctoral research. He has worked at Los Alamos ever since, and now holds the position of Division Director for its Explosive Science and Shock Physics Division. His research in materials science spans fracture and damage of complex heterogeneous polymers and polymer composites for energetic, reactive, and structural applications including crystalline phase transitions, plasticity, dynamic loading conditions, and self-healing materials.

Initially intending to go into industry, Brown worked at Motorola after earning his bachelor’s degree. He soon realized that the roles he wanted to work in would require a graduate degree, so he contacted MatSE Professor Nancy Sottos (who was, at the time, a professor in TAM), with whom he had done undergraduate research. It was then that Brown was introduced to the field of self-healing materials and wound up staying with Sottos’ research program to obtain his PhD.

Research wasn’t all that Brown was focused on during his time as a graduate student. He was the TAM student body president and an active rock climber. He formed the Climbing Illini with some of his friends, one of whom, Karen (née Nielsen, BS NRES ‘01) would later become his wife.

Sottos introduced Brown to the Society of Experimental Mechanics (SEM) during his doctoral studies, and he is still involved in SEM today. As the founding editor of the Journal of Dynamic Behavior of Materials, he helped facilitate the communication of some fundamental scientific advances. In honor of his contributions to the field of experimental mechanics and his activity in the society, Brown was named a Fellow of SEM in 2017.

While Brown enjoys the fundamental side of research, he also enjoys being able to work on more applied projects. He previously worked for the Secretary of Defense, researching new ways to keep America’s soldiers safe.

Brown also served on the MechSE Alumni Board and appreciates the value of a Distinguished Alumni Award. “It is incredibly humbling to receive this award. Through being on the MechSE Alumni Board for so long, I know this is an impressive set of people to be considered a peer with.”