Brown engineering dean Tejal Desai elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Named a member of the academy’s Class of 2024, the accomplished biomedical engineer and academic leader received the honor in recognition of her work in nanotechnology and therapeutic delivery.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Tejal A. Desai, an accomplished biomedical engineer and dean of the Brown University School of Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering as a member of its 2024 class.

The academy cited Desai’s distinguished contributions to engineering “for nanofabricated materials to control biologics delivery, and leadership in the fields of nanotechnology and regenerative medicine.” Membership in the National Academy of Engineering is considered one of the highest professional honors for an engineer, and her selection brings the number of current Brown faculty members in the academy to six. 

“I am deeply honored by this recognition and am grateful for all my colleagues and trainees who have supported me over my career,” Desai said. 

Desai is one of 114 new members and 21 international members elected to the academy’s Class of 2024.

“I am thrilled for Tejal’s election into the National Academy of Engineering,” said Francis J. Doyle III, Brown’s provost and a fellow member of the academy. “As a biomedical engineer and academic leader, Tejal’s work is essential as Brown endeavors to address society’s most pressing public health and treatment challenges. This is a well-deserved honor that showcases the incredible expertise we have in our faculty and the outstanding contributions Tejal has made to her field.”

Desai began her tenure as dean of engineering at Brown in September 2022. An accomplished biomedical engineer and academic leader, she conducts research that spans multiple disciplines, including materials engineering, cell biology, tissue engineering and pharmacological delivery systems to develop new therapeutic interventions for disease. She seeks to design new platforms, enabled by advances in micro and nanotechnology, to overcome existing challenges in therapeutic delivery.

With more than 260 peer-reviewed articles and patents, Desai’s research has earned her numerous recognitions including Technology Review’s “Top 100 Young Innovators,” Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” and the Dawson Biotechnology Award. She served as president of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering from 2020 to 2022, was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2015 and to the National Academy of Inventors in 2019. Desai recently delivered the 2023 Robert A. Pritzker Distinguished Lecture at the Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting — the highest honor the organization can bestow upon an individual who has demonstrated impactful leadership and accomplishments in biomedical engineering science and practice.

Desai earned her undergraduate degree from Brown University in biomedical engineering in 1994, and was awarded a Ph.D. in bioengineering jointly from the University of California San Francisco and the University of California Berkeley in 1998.

Prior to her return to Brown in 2022, she was a professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF, and a professor in residence in the Department of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley. She served as director of the National Institutes of Health training grant for the joint UCSF/UCB graduate program in bioengineering for more than 15 years, and as founding director of the UCSF/UCB master’s program in translational medicine. She was also chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF from 2014 to 2021 and the inaugural director of the UCSF Engineering and Applied Sciences Initiative, known as HIVE (Health Innovation Via Engineering).

Desai is a vocal advocate for education and outreach to members of groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields. Her work to break down institutional barriers to equity and cultivate a climate of inclusion has earned numerous honors, including the AWIS Judith Poole Award in Mentorship, the 2021 UCSF Chancellor’s Award for the Advancement of Women, and the 2022 Controlled Release Woman in Science Award. As president of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, she led advocacy efforts for increased scientific funding and addressing workforce disparities in science and engineering.

With her election to the Class of 2024, Desai became the 19th current or former Brown engineering faculty member and the 23rd Brown engineering graduate elected to the National Academy of Engineering.