Morgan Named First Maysarah K. Sukkar Professor of Engineering Design & Innovation

By Michael Seele

College of Engineering alumnus Malek Sukkar (MFG ’92) has established an endowed professorship in honor of his father, a life-long innovator whose work is aimed at improving society. Professor Elise Morgan (ME, BME, MSE), a leading researcher on how mechanical forces affect biological tissue, has been named the first Maysarah K. Sukkar Professor of Engineering Design and Innovation.

Malek Sukkar is a University trustee and a member of the University’s International Advisory Board. He is a member of the Strategic Oversight Planning Committee in the College of Engineering and served on the recently concluded capital campaign’s steering committee. He is the chief executive officer of Averda International, a global waste management company founded by his father.

Malek Sukkar
Malek Sukkar

“My father is an engineer’s engineer,” Malek said. “He’s now in the Congo devising a new hydroponic system that uses as little water as possible and with minimal need for climate control. I wanted to create a professorship that mimics that kind of systems thinking, is interdisciplinary and improves our quality of life, much like my father.”

Dean Kenneth Lutchen noted that the Sukkar Professorship marks a major milestone the development of the College, which is only about 50 years old and has a much smaller alumni body than many of its peers. “This is our first named, endowed professorship established through philanthropy,” he said. “It reflects a capacity to attract and retain the very best researchers, academicians and teachers, and rapidly elevates the College’s reputation and excellence.”

Morgan, who is also the College’s associate dean for Research and Faculty Development and director of the Center for Multiscale & Translational Mechanobiology, conducts research in biomechanics and mechanobiology. She uses methods from engineering mechanics, materials science, and cell and molecular biology to investigate how mechanical forces and displacements contribute to the development, adaptation, degeneration, and regeneration of bone and cartilage. Through her research, Morgan hopes to gain insight into causes and potential treatments for diseases or conditions such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and impaired bone healing. Recently, she has been working on the biologically inspired design of additive manufacturing structures that mimic the microstructure of bone.

She is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, associate editor of the Journal of Biomechanics, a member of the board of directors of the Orthopedic Research Society, and former chair of the National Institutes of Health Study Sections. Morgan has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and nearly 9,000 citations.

“Dr. Morgan’s research intersects mechanics, materials and bioengineering, specifically orthopedics with a clear eye on translating her work to clinical practice,” Lutchen said, noting that her appointment was recommended by a faculty review committee. “In addition, she is one of our most talented, dedicated and innovative teachers at the undergraduate level, and has mentored nearly 20 PhD students to date.”

“I am grateful for this huge honor,” Morgan said. “This professorship opens up some exciting possibilities for our research that’s really groundbreaking. It gives my group the resources to pursue our most ambitious goals.”