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Honors and Awards

Executive Director of The Nonwovens Institute Earns Faculty Honor for Research

Behnam Pourdeyhimi and a group of people wearing protective glasses in The Nonwovens Institute.
Photo Courtesy: The Nonwovens Institute

More than 200 research presentations, 377 peer-reviewed publications and 70 U.S. and international patents — these are just a few of the accomplishments earned by Behnam Pourdeyhimi, the executive director of The Nonwovens Institute (NWI), in his career which spans more than 40 years. 

The newest addition to his long list of well-deserved accolades is NC State’s Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award. The award honors leading faculty and scholars for their contributions to NC State’s research and scholarship culture, and also earns the recipient a spot in the Research Leadership Academy.

The Research Leadership Academy is composed of the university’s most distinguished researchers from across disciplines and fields. Their goal is to promote diverse research across NC State’s campus. Members lead research and leadership education programs, as well as faculty mentorship programs. 

While his impressive research experience and history of mentorship speak for themselves, it is Pourdeyhimi’s commitment to his community that truly sets him apart.

“He is unfailingly generous with his time and expertise, and he never turns down a reasonable request for help, advice and resources,” Professor Ruben G. Carbonell, director of the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science writes in a recommendation for the award. “He is kind and understanding with students, and patient with all that deal with him at a personal and professional level. It is these qualities that make him a truly outstanding colleague and friend.”

For Pourdeyhimi, it is the work of his team and the NWI as a whole that rises above his accomplishments as an individual and truly represents his legacy. 

“It takes a village to do what we have done,” he explains. “One individual faculty can never build anything like this.”

The Nonwovens Institute

The NWI is the world’s first accredited academic program for the interdisciplinary field of engineered fabrics. It brings together government, industry and academic leaders with the goal of innovating nonwoven solutions to real-world problems.

The institute began in 1991 with the establishment of the Nonwovens Cooperative Research Center (NCRC). Pourdeyhimi took over as director of the NCRC in 2000, and under his leadership it became the largest research center in the U.S. Then in 2007, Pourdeyhimi founded the NWI by merging all NCRC programs into one larger institution which allowed them to delve deeper into interdisciplinary work.

“Today our core is still fiber and polymer science, but then we also have students in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, paper science and chemistry. We’ve had students in bioengineering,” Pourdeyhimi says. “It really created an atmosphere where we could collaborate on larger multidisciplinary activities together, even beyond NC State.” 

Behnam Pourdeyhimi and a group of people in The Nonwovens Institute.
Photo Courtesy: The Nonwovens Institute

The institute operates on an “Open Innovation” platform, which encourages collaboration without competition in order to best serve the industry. 

“We have a large consortium of companies that come together and most of these companies are competitors,” Pourdeyhimi explains. “So what we decided to do was really focus on grand challenges for the industry.” 

Together the faculty, students and industry leaders come together to address these challenges, setting aside intellectual property disputes and innovating solutions that the community as a whole can take advantage of. 

A focus on mentorship

The NWI’s community-minded approach extends beyond their research and into their commitment to mentorship. Not only do they support more than 50 graduate students each year, but they also offer training and support to industry professionals and faculty members across campus.

“We really try to communicate with our faculty and colleagues what nonwovens are, what the challenges are, what the opportunities are and really enable them to then respond to the needs that arise within the industry,” Pourdeyhimi explains. 

Looking forward, he hopes to grow the community the NWI supports to include more students from across disciplines, and more industry leaders. 

“We support 40 to 50 Ph.D. students right now,” he says. “We want to be able to grow that rapidly because there is a significant need for it and we’d like to sustain the growth of this amazing industry.”

It’s his colleagues and team members from this amazing industry that Pourdeyhimi says truly earned this award. 

“It’s a reflection of the accomplishments of the Nonwovens Institute,” he says. “The culture at NC State allowed us to take risks and without that we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done.”