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D. Fred McBagonluri

D. Fred McBagonluri with his Academy of Engineering Excellence award.

M.S., Engineering Science and Mechanics, 1998
Induction year: 2024

The journey of D. Fred McBagonluri's M.S. ‘98 is a testament to the power of education, mentorship, and the relentless pursuit of one’s passion. His story began in 1995 when he joined Virginia Tech as a summer intern with the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). Professors Kenneth Reifsnider and Victor Giugiutiu sparked an enthusiasm that led McBagonluri back to graduate school after first exposing him to composite materials.

One of his favorite memories from Virginia Tech was when Professor Jack Lesko’s team replaced the deck on the Tom’s Creek bridge with glass fiber-polymer Matrix composites — a hands-on approach to solving engineering problems that left a lasting impression.

His Virginia Tech degree played a crucial role in his career, giving him an advantage when he landed his first job at Siemens Healthcare. His knowledge in mechanics, algorithms, and computer-aided design (CAD) from Virginia Tech set him apart from nearly 100 other applicants.

His childhood fascination with mechanics and medicine led him to a 16-year career in the medical devices and equipment industries. Recognizing the need for a new generation of engineers in Africa, he has been on a mission to ensure they receive proper training for the past eight years.

Reflecting on his career, McBagonluri cites being a finalist at the 2009 candidate for the NASA astronaut corps as a standout moment. In the words of former Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Leo Rafael Reif, “It was a moment I could not have dared to dream.” McBagonluri’s journey from Virginia Tech to global impact is a testament to the power of education, mentorship, and the relentless pursuit of one’s passion.

Current town:
Accra, Ghana

Accra, Ghana

Professional roles:

  • Founding Provost and President, Academic City College, 2018-Present
  • Founding Dean of Engineering and Associate Professor, Ashesi University College, 2015-2018
  • Executive Director, Ghana Climate Innovation Center, 2015-2016
  • Vice President of New Product Development, Joerns Healthcare, LLC, 2013-2015
  • Chief Executive Officer, FANO Technologies, 2012-2013
  • Director of Market Development, Becton Dickinson & Co., 2011-2012
  • World Wide Director of Research and Development, Becton Dickinson & Co., 2008-2011
  • Director of Research and Development and IT, Siemens Healthcare, 2007-2008
  • Director of Research and Development, Siemens Healthcare, 2006-2007
  • Senior Engineering Manager, Siemens Healthcare, 2005-2006
  • Principal Engineer, Siemens Healthcare, 2003-2005
  • Senior Engineer, Siemens Healthcare, 2001-2003
  • Research Associate, Princeton University School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, 2001-2005
  • Visiting Research Scholar, Purdue University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2000-2001
  • Graduate Research Assistant, University of Dayton Research Institute, 1998-2000
  • Graduate Research Assistant, Virginia Tech Materials Response Group, 1996-1998

Professional awards:

  • Innovator of the Year, Ashesi University, 2018
  • Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame, Central State University, 2014
  • Healthcare Innovator Hero Award, State of New Jersey NJBiz, 2008
  • College of Business and Engineering Alumnus of the Year, Central State University, 2008
  • U.S. Black Engineer of the Year: Most Promising Scientist, Career Communications Group Inc., 2008
  • Outstanding Diversity Leadership Award Siemens PLM, Siemens Medical, 2007

Boards and committees:

  • Board Chair, Ghana Institute of ICT Professionals
  • Vice Board Chair, United Parking Services
  • Board Member, Sub-Committee on Research, Ghana Standards Authority

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech?
I came to Virginia Tech in 1995 as a summer intern with the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) which was funded by the National Science Foundation. I was assigned to the Materials Response Group under Professor Kenneth Reifsnider and also worked with Professor Victor Giugiutiu. Although it was my first exposure to composite materials, I was enthused by the opportunities that the field offered as well as the warmth and support I got from the team. Returning to Virginia Tech for graduate school came naturally from that experience.

Who influenced you during your career and/or time at Virginia Tech?
Professor Jack Lesko was my master's advisor and was instrumental in getting me back to Blacksburg as a graduate student. He supported me as I transitioned from a manufacturing engineering undergraduate to a difficult graduate program in mechanics. 

Professor Alex Anning was, and remains, a mentor and a good friend throughout my professional career. 

Professor Scott Case, a postdoc at the time, provided great insights into the beautiful world of composite durability. 

My mates, Michael Hayes, Walter Brady, and David Jungk, along with contemporaries such as Nirmal Iyengar, Nikhil Verghese, and Moussa Wone, made the journey through Virginia Tech enriching and memorable.  

How did you decide what to major in at Virginia Tech?
After my 1995 SURP experience, composite materials stood out for me as the next progression.  I was fascinated by the possibilities it held then and now. The Materials Response Group was one of the leading centers of excellence for composites education.

What's one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech?
One of my best memories was when Professor Lesko's team was replacing the deck on the Tom's Creek bridge with glass fiber-polymer matrix composites. We used to run shifts at the site monitoring vehicle traffic and aging composite coupons in the under-bridge sewage. I was fascinated by this direct, hands-on approach to solving engineering problems.

As a Virginia Tech student, did you hold a scholarship, assistantship, or fellowship? If so, what did it provide for you and what was the impact of it on your life?
I was on a research scholarship at Virginia Tech. As an international student at the time, I could not have afforded to attend Virginia Tech otherwise.

What led you to your chosen profession?
I grew up near a mechanic who resuscitated write-off vehicles. I liked the way he emerged greasy from under these vehicles. He inspired me to want to be a mechanic. Later, an uncle came to visit from medical school and I watched him dissect frogs — then I wanted to be a doctor. 

I was nominated for a scholarship and found out that I could only study engineering. Ultimately, I spent 16 years in the medical devices and equipment industries converging serendipitously. Then, I decided that Africa needs to train its next generation of engineers differently, and I have been on a mission to ensure that in the last eight years.

How have you utilized your Virginia Tech degree in your career?
My first job was with Siemens Healthcare analyzing complex systems and generating requirements to build a transformative, proprietary, 3D modeling software system for hearing instrument manufacturing. As I would find out later, nearly 100 resumes were received for the position. My knowledge in mechanics, algorithms, and computer-aided design from Virginia Tech gave me an obvious advantage and a greater basis for further success in my career.

What was the moment in your career that you felt like you made it - that you were proud of yourself for what you had accomplished?
I have had a few of such moments but the one that stands out to me the most was being a finalist in 2009 for the NASA astronaut corps. In the words of former MIT President Leo Rafael Reif, "It was a moment I could not have dared to dream."

Please note: Inductee spotlight is as of the year of their induction.