One of the most highly regarded engineers in the world is temporarily leaving his post at the University of Central Florida to serve a one-year special assignment at the U.S. Department of State.

Challapalli Suryanarayana, a professor of materials science and engineering, became the first UCF faculty member selected as a Jefferson Science Fellow. The fellowship, established in 2004, is aimed at making sure that policy makers understand rapidly evolving technology, science and engineering for the better formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.

He is among 13 fellows chosen for the prestigious assignment.

“I’m honored and humbled to serve,” Suryanarayana said. “Staying ahead of the curve in science, technology and engineering is critical to our future and I’m happy to lend whatever talents I can to make sure our policy makers have good information to make sound policies.”

As a Jefferson Science Fellow, Suryanarayana will report to the U.S. Department of State this week and serve one year engaging in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy for an office within the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Suryanarayana will provide technical advice and lead projects in various science and technology issues that support the Office of the Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary (STAS) and other bureaus and offices. He will ensure managers in these offices have the “full picture” on various science and tech issues, as well as recommendations on the pros and cons of different approaches. Following the fellowship year, he will remain available for five years as a consultant to the U.S. government on short-term projects.

Fewer than 15 JSF awardees have been chosen each year since the program began. Applicants are limited to scientists, technologists, engineers and physicians holding a tenured or similarly ranked academic appointment at a U.S. college or university. JSF awardees are selected based on their stature, recognition and experience in the national and international scientific or engineering community. They are also selected for their ability to rapidly and accurately understand scientific advancements and integrate that knowledge into federal international policy discussions.

Suryanarayana is considered a leader in his field. He has developed novel materials such as nanostructured monolithic and composite materials, improved intermetallics and (bulk) metallic glasses, many of which have applications in the aerospace industry.

In 2011, Suryanarayana was ranked the 40th-best materials scientist in the world (21st in the United States) by Thomson Reuters, which considered a total of 500,000 materials scientists in the world. The UCF professor has published more than 300 academic research papers and more than 20 technical books, and sits on the editorial committees of several archival journals. He is a recipient of the Young Scientist Medal of the Indian National Science Academy, Distinguished Alumnus Award of Banaras Hindu University, and the National Metallurgists’ Day Award of the Government of India, among other awards. He is a fellow of ASM International and also of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining of London, U.K.

Prior to joining UCF in 2001, Suryanarayana was a research professor at the Colorado School of Mines for three years. Earlier, he was a visiting professor and associate director of the Institute for Materials and Advanced Processes at the University of Idaho. From 1988 to 1990, he was a research associate for the National Research Council at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Prior to that, he held professorship and teaching positions at Banaras Hindu University in India. He has also served as a short-term visiting professor at 10 international universities.

He holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. in metallurgical engineering from Banaras Hindu University in India; a B.E. in metallurgy from the Indian Institute of Science in India, and a B.S. in math, physics and chemistry from Andhra University in India.

The Jefferson Science Fellowship program is a collaborative effort between the U.S. academic community, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The program serves as an innovative model for engaging American academic science, technology, engineering and medical communities in U.S. foreign policy.