Jan Achenbach Receives Rare Honorary Degree from China’s Zhejiang University

Jan D. Achenbach, Walter P. Murphy and Distinguished McCormick School Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering and professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics and mechanical engineering, has been awarded an honorary doctorate degree from China’s Zhejiang University.

Achenbach was presented the award on September 7 in a ceremony with the university’s president, Yang Wei, in the Zhejiang Province.

Jan Achenbach receives honorary doctorate

The award is a rare honor, as Chinese universities bestow honorary degrees only once every five years or so and their selections must be approved by state officials. Previous recipients of Zhejiang University’s honorary doctorate include former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch. Achenbach is the seventh individual – and the first engineer – to receive an honorary doctorate from Zhejiang University.

Born in the Netherlands, Achenbach became a member of Northwestern’s faculty in 1963. Since then, he has become highly respected for his work in the areas of wave propagation in solids and for pioneering the field of quantitative non-destructive evaluation. He received a National Medal of Technology in 2003 for his contributions to engineering research and education and for pioneering methods for detecting dangerous cracks and corrosion in aircrafts, advances that have led to improved air safety.  

Achenbach was also awarded a 2005 National Medal of Science, the nation's highest honor for innovation in technology and science. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1982, a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1992, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994. In 1999, Achenbach was elected a Corresponding Member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. He is also an honorary member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a fellow of ASME, ASA, SES, AMA, and AAAS. His awards include the Timoshenko Medal, the William Prager Medal, and the Theodore von Karman Medal.

Achenbach is founder of Northwestern's Center for Quality Engineering and Failure Prevention, a state-of-the-art laboratory for quality control in structural mechanics.