A Clemson University automotive engineer who was called “an exceptional and gifted young scientist” is receiving SAE’s 2017 Young Industry Leadership Award, the latest in a string of honors for him.

Srikanth Pilla is an assistant professor of automotive engineering who is based at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville.

Srikanth Pilla, left, poses with Mazen Hammoud, the chairman of the SAE Foundation Board of Trustees and Director, Powertrain Engineering, Ford Asia Pacific Ford Motor Company.

Srikanth Pilla, left, poses with Mazen Hammoud, the chairman of the SAE Foundation Board of Trustees and Director, Powertrain Engineering, Ford Asia Pacific Ford Motor Company.

The award recognizes professionals who have less than 12 years industry experience, significant accomplishments, commitment to STEM education and potential for leadership growth.

“Dr. Pilla is a rare breed of academicians,” according to an SAE announcement. “His insight to nurture and lead the next generation of engineering talent is unique as he teaches students to be thoughtful, creative and intuitive.”

Zoran Filipi, chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering, congratulated Pilla on the award.

“Dr. Pilla is having a major impact in a short time,” Filipi said. “He has an exceptional academic record but with practical application to the automotive industry. Dr. Pilla also serves as a role model and mentor to his students. He richly deserves this prestigious honor.”

Pilla received a $5.81-million award from the Department of Energy in 2015 to create an ultra-lightweight automobile door that is made of carbon-fiber-reinforced, thermoplastic composites instead of steel. He also oversees a lab where software-maker Moldex3D has donated 30 licenses worth $1.65 million.

His research totals about $11.5 million in funding from competitive federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and NASA-EPSCoR. He also has funding from several industry sources, including automotive original equipment manufacturers and their tiered suppliers.

Srikanth Pilla

Srikanth Pilla

Pilla directs the automotive engineering department’s largest research group, including nine doctoral students, four visiting scholar, three undergraduates and one research scientist

His multiple awards include SAE’s Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award, SME’s Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer and SAE’s Forest R. McFarland Award. He was also recently awarded CECAS dean’s faculty fellow award in automotive engineering for his outstanding and sustained record of excellence in research, teaching, scholarship and service.

Pilla’s research is published in a wide variety of books, journals, peer-reviewed publications, technical presentations, extended abstracts and scientific articles. He also edited the world’s leading handbook in bioplastics and biocomposites and four Society of Automotive Engineers-Progress in Technology Series books. He serves as associate editor of the SAE International Journal of Materials and Manufacturing and on the boards of the Journal of Renewable Materials and the SPE Injection Molding and Bioplastics divisions.

Pilla holds a patent for designing a new anti-drooling system that eliminates drooling in a refill pack of a cleaning device. He also co-invented two patent pending technologies on a new bearing design and a renewable-material based adsorbent for water remediation.

He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and received postdoctoral training at Stanford University. He worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an assistant scientist before joining Clemson in fall 2013.

Pilla has a joint appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said Pilla’s award is well deserved.

“Dr. Pilla’s highly innovative work is helping make South Carolina a hub of advanced manufacturing and composite materials,” Gramopadhye said. “I congratulate him on his latest award and all his success.”