Michael Kessler is the Dean of the College of Engineering at North Dakota State University (NDSU), a student focused, land-grant, research university.  The largest college at NDSU, the College of Engineering has over 2500 students and more than 100 faculty and staff.  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.

Prior to joining NDSU in 2017, he was the Berry Family Director of the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering (MME) at Washington State University (WSU), a school with over 60 faculty and staff, about 1,200 students, and expenditures exceeding $10M/year. 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 that focuses on developing high-value biobased products from agricultural and forestry feedstocks and sponsored by about 30 member companies and the NSF. 

An expert in the mechanics, processing, and characterization of polymer matrix composites and nanocomposites, his research interests include the development of multifunctional materials (including the development of self-healing structural composites), 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.  He has extensive experience in processing and characterizing thermosets including those created through ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP), such as poly-dicyclopentadiene, and the cyclotrimerization of cyanate ester resins. 

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, ACS Petroleum Research Fund, Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, and NASA.  His honors include the Army Research Office Young Investigator Award, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award, the NSF CAREER Award, and the Elsevier Young Composites Researcher Award from the American Society for Composites.  He has over 175 journal papers and 9000 citations, holds nearly 20 patents and provisional patents, edited 14 books, presented over 200 talks at national and international meetings, and serves as a frequent reviewer and referee in his field.

Past Affiliations

Berry Family Director and Professor, School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, Washington State University Pullman, Washington State University (past)

Wilkinson Professor of Interdisciplinary Engineering, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering, Iowa State University (past)

Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering, Iowa State University (past)

Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, University of Tulsa (past)

Engineering, Architecture
PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, 2002
MS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, 1998
BS, LeTourneau University, Engineering, Mechanical, 1996
engineering education mechanical engineering materials science composite materials polymer science advanced materials

Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Fellow, North American Thermal Analysis Society

Army Research Office Young Investigator Award

Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award


Elsevier Young Composites Researcher Award, American Society for Composites

Kavli Fellow, National Academy of Sciences