December 12, 2023
By Ashley Ritchie

Jonathan S. Colton, professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, has been awarded the Eugene C. Gwaltney Jr. Professorship in Manufacturing for his outstanding research accomplishments, leadership in his field, and the contributions he has made to Georgia Tech and the Woodruff School.

Colton’s professorship will begin January 1, 2024. He will hold the position for a five-year term and receive discretionary funding to support his educational and research activities.

“Since joining Georgia Tech 38 years ago, Jon has made a tremendous impact in the classroom, lab, and around the world. He is a strong advocate of multidisciplinary hands-on design experiences and has a strong passion for the application of engineering for the common good,” said Devesh Ranjan, Eugene C. Gwaltney, Jr. School Chair. “I am grateful to the Gwaltney family for their generous support which makes this professorship possible.”

Colton’s research is focused on polymer composites and global development. Over the last decade, he has studied the conversion of high-performance, continuous fiber composites into aerospace components with funding from Boeing. Colton also improves agricultural mechanization and manufacturing in low- and middle-income countries with funding from USAID.

In addition, Colton has been a leader in education. He has taught thousands of students in manufacturing and design classes, most of which he developed. He also created the industrial design minor to allow mechanical engineering students to see the relationship between product design and engineering, providing them with the skills they need to design and manufacture impactful products that serve society. He also created the global development minor with the Nunn School and directs Georgia Tech's U.S. Department of State’s Diplomacy Lab, which pairs faculty and students with State Department counterparts to solve some of the most difficult challenges confronting American foreign policy.

During his career, Colton has worked with over 250 student researchers and numerous visiting engineers and scientists. He has authored hundreds of book chapters, papers, presentations, and project reports with students and colleagues, as well as presented numerous seminars at universities and companies. In addition, he has been granted eight patents.

Colton was a member of the World Health Organization’s Immunization Practices Advisory Committee and served on the Board of Directors of the Global Soap Project. He was a U.S. Department of State Jefferson Science Fellow at the USAID Bureau for Food Security where he supported the scaling up of agricultural technologies in the Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s $1.1 billion per year response to global poverty and malnutrition. He also led an international team that designed a Net-Zero Energy Warehouse for Drugs and Vaccines for the government of Tunisia.

He received his S.B., S.M., and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.