Michael R. Kessler

Dean, College of Engineering


PhD Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, University of Illinois, 2002
MS Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, University of Illinois, 1998
BS  Engineering (Mechanical), LeTourneau University, 1996


Dr. Kessler has served as Dean of the College of Engineering at NDSU since 2017. As the chief executive officer of the College, Dr. Kessler guides the college towards academic excellence; promotes a culture of research, innovation and scholarship; and represents its students, faculty, and staff at the university level and beyond. As the chief academic officer of the College, he appoints department heads/chairs, oversees accreditation, and leads new curricula and program development efforts.  As the financial and administrative manager for the College, he guides and oversees its annual operating budget, and advocates for investments in new programs and initiatives.  He is also charged with all aspects of the College’s external engagement, and in providing strategic leadership and management in meeting the University’s land grant mission.

He arrived at NDSU from Washington State University (WSU), where he was the Berry Family Director of the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering (MME). In that role he served as the chief academic and administrative officer for the School of MME and was charged with providing leadership to define and advance the school’s academic and research agendas. In addition, he was the founding co-director of the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (CB2), a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry and University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) co-located at Washington State University and Iowa State University (and now North Dakota State University) that focuses on developing high-value biobased products from agricultural and forestry feedstocks and sponsored by about 30 member companies and the NSF.  

Prior to joining the faculty at Washington State University in 2013, he held faculty positions at Iowa State University and the University of Tulsa, receiving prestigious young investigator grants from the NSF (CAREER), the Army Research Office, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. He received his Ph.D. from the Dept. of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2002 where he worked as a Graduate Research Fellow at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. His thesis research was on the development of “self-healing” composite materials.

An expert in the mechanics, processing, and characterization of polymer matrix composites and nanocomposites, his research interests include the development of multifunctional materials, polymer matrix composites for extreme environments, bio-renewable polymers and composites, and the evaluation of these materials using experimental mechanics and thermal analysis. These broad-based topics span the fields of organic chemistry, applied mechanics, and processing science.  

Over his academic career he developed an active research group with external funding of over eleven million dollars—including funding from the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, and NASA. He has published about 200 journal papers which have been cited more than 19,000 times by other researches, holds 20 issued US patents, edited 14 books, presented over 200 talks at national and international meetings, and serves as a frequent reviewer and referee in his field. He is the past president of the North American Thermal Analysis Society (NATAS) and a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Royal Society of Chemistry, ASM International, and NATAS, and a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Kessler grew up in Custer, S.D. and obtained his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from LeTourneau University in 1996. He lives in Fargo, ND with his wife, Michelle, and their three children, Ethan, Kara and Caleb.


Complete List of Publications on Google Scholar 

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