When John J. Lewandowski, the Arthur P. Armington Professor of Engineering II in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, began his academic career as a first-generation college student in 1974, he was unsure of his career path. Today, Lewandowski is an internationally recognized materials science researcher, an inspiring professor and mentor, and now a Distinguished University Professor.
“If you would have told me years ago that I would be involved with the things that I’m doing now, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Lewandowski.
Over the course of his 35-year tenure, Lewandowski has been recognized as one of the department’s most motivating and engaging professors, having mentored and supported 80 master’s students, 31 PhD students, and more than 50 postdoctoral researchers and visiting scholars. He has even had the opportunity to work in a lab with his two sons, ultimately publishing a paper with each.
“The secret source of Professor Lewandowski’s high impact on students is his collegial style, which breaks the ice and truly engages students to work with him,” said Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan, the Charles H. Phipps Dean of the Case School of Engineering.
Lewandowksi was an enthusiastic advocate for his students who were learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding creative ways to teach important laboratory courses despite limited access to campus—including mailing lab specimens directly to students, even internationally. And his efforts made an impact: Students in his courses last year performed higher than previous cohorts.
“I enjoy working with students at various levels and appreciate the different ideas and perspectives they bring to the table, both culturally and academically,” said Lewandowski. “I really enjoy interacting with them, learning about their background and helping them get to their next level.”
In addition to his notable impact in the classroom, Lewandowski’s research is globally renowned, with his work appearing in more than 345 journal publications and an estimated 25 edited books, book chapters and major research reviews.
He has received more than 160 grants, totalling nearly $40 million in research funds, and has worked with some of the leading industries in the field of materials, including Howmet, General Electric, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Lincoln-Electric and Timken. Currently, his expanded research efforts include focusing on the relationship between processing, structure, property and performance using advanced manufacturing techniques.
The culmination of these decades of accomplishments was recognized when former Interim President Scott Cowen and Provost Ben Vinson III surprised Lewandowski during a school-wide Zoom call with the news that he was receiving the Distinguished University Professorship—the highest honor the university bestows on a member of its professoriate.
“Though I was shocked when the news was first announced, the Zoom call gave me the opportunity to acknowledge the people who helped me during the long time I’ve been here, some of whom were on the call,” Lewandowski said. “This is a recognition of various parts of one’s career that includes education and teaching, but also recognizes research that was facilitated by Case Western Reserve students, staff, and a number of the other faculty members.”