Genin named inaugural Faught Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Guy Genin speaks at his professorship installation
Guy Genin, who was installed as the Harold & Kathleen Faught Professor of Mechanical Engineering Feb. 12 at the Knight Center, presented a lecture on "Mechanobiology: Understanding and Controlling Force in Living Systems." (Photo: Whitney Curtis/Washington University)

Guy Genin, an internationally renowned expert in mechanobiology, was installed as the Harold and Kathleen Faught Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis Feb. 12.

Genin, professor of mechanical engineering, studies interfaces and adhesion in nature, physiology and engineering. His research focuses on mechanobiology and aims to understand and harness the role of force in living systems. His group works on pathologies whose underpinnings have an important mechanical component, including cardiac fibrosis and pathologies of interfaces in the body.

The professorship was made possible through a bequest from the late Harold Faught. He was a longtime friend and volunteer for the School of Engineering & Applied Science, serving on the National Council for nearly a decade.

“I am so pleased to have this professorship, which allows us to recognize Guy Genin’s impressive work in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and to honor the Faughts,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “Harold Faught was a dedicated volunteer and generous benefactor, and it is wonderful to know that future generations of engineering students and faculty will benefit from his contributions.”

“Professor Genin’s research is at the forefront of mechanobiology and investigates everything living from plants to humans,” said Aaron F. Bobick, dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the James M. McKelvey Professor. “Mechanobiology processes underlie so many biological and medical domains, including how cancer cells move as they metastasize to how plants resist damage from external forces. Therefore, the work in Guy’s lab has nearly limitless potential, ranging from stopping cancer cells from spreading to developing hardier crops and more sustainable growing methods that could boost food production. We are grateful to Harold Faught for his foresight to support such groundbreaking research.”

Genin also applies his techniques to the study of interfaces within plants with the overall goal of finding ways to manipulate plants using mechanical force. Genin is Washington University’s principal investigator for a five-year, $25 million National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center grant focused on this area. This center, formed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania and named the NSF Center for Engineering Mechanobiology, aims to develop mechanobiology into an established discipline and produce a new generation of scientific leaders.

He also is known for his work in innovation and entrepreneurship. He is chief engineer for Washington University’s Center for Innovation in Neuroscience and Technology and has spun out two companies and produced several licensed patents.

Genin, who also holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Neurosurgery at the School of Medicine, has received numerous awards for engineering design, teaching and research, including a Research Career Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the Skalak Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME); the Northcutt-Coil Professor of the Year award from the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and universitywide teaching awards from the university’s Student Union.

In addition, he has received other prestigious awards, including the Yangtze River Scholar award in 2015, the highest award issued to an individual in higher education by China’s Ministry of Education, an honor awarded to few people not born in China. He is the McDonnell Academy Ambassador to Xi’an Jiaotong University in China, where he is the Changjiang Professor.

He has chaired the ASME Tissue and Cellular Engineering Technical Committee and serves as co-lead of the NIH working group on integrated multiscale biomechanics experiment and modeling. He has organized several major conferences and international workshops and is chair of the Society for Engineering Science international conference to be held at Washington University in 2019. He serves on the editorial of a number of leading journals and is a fellow of ASME and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Genin joined the Washington University faculty in 1999. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Case Western Reserve University; master’s and doctoral degrees in applied mechanics and solid mechanics from Harvard University; and did postdoctoral training at Cambridge and Brown universities.

About Harold Faught

Born in Washington, D.C., Faught earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University in 1945 and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951. During World War II, he served in the Navy as a lieutenant junior grade. He graduated from the Advanced Management Program of Harvard University in 1961.

He spent the first 23 years of his professional career in management at Westinghouse Electric Co., then served as senior assistant postmaster general for the U.S. Postal Service from 1969-1973 as part of Richard Nixon’s Cabinet. In 1973, he joined Emerson, from which he retired in 2000 as senior vice president and consultant.

Faught died in 2009 and is survived by his wife, Catherine Faught. He was preceded in death by his wife of more than 50 years, Kathleen Quinn Faught, who died in 2001.

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