Kris Billiar, PhD ’87


“I am honored that I was chosen by students (thank goodness it’s a blinded review!!). When I think of myself back at Heights High, I’m not sure I would have chosen a scientist or engineer for such an honor. I value the diversity of people and experiences at Heights High and the impact it’s had on my life. Even though I live 600 miles away, I still feel a special connection to Cleveland Heights: my kids call it their second home, my closest friends are from here, and the best part, my wife is a Heights High grad!”

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” ~ Randy Pausch

Immediately after earning his doctorate in Bioengineering, Kris developed a remarkable career as a research scientist focusing on how mechanical forces influence the development and healing of biological tissues, particularly valves, skin, lungs and bones. A primary investigator for numerous research grants, Kris has authored or co-authored more than 65 publications and 140 conference presentations. A Fulbright scholar, Kris’ work is recognized around the world, as evidenced by invitations to present in Italy, China, Australia and the Netherlands. At only 45, he was promoted to full professor at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and was appointed Head of the Department of Engineering the following year. In recognition of his scholarship and leadership, his peers elected him to Fellow status across three different engineering institutes and professional societies, an honor afforded to less than two percent of the groups’ memberships. Dedicated, driven and hard-working, Kris leads by example. He is a mentor passionate about supporting the development of younger generations of engineers and leads an institute-wide effort to support women and minorities in the field. He is one of WPI’s “go-to” people for governance, curricula, student advising and faculty recruitment. While Kris loves to lead, he strives to help others “to be the best they can be.” As an adult, Kris embraced running and cycling. He has competed in four triathlons and has a reputation for riding his bicycle to work on all but the very snowiest of New England winter days.


BS in Mechanical Engineering, Cornell University

PhD, University of Pennsylvania

Current Occupation

Professor and Department Head

  • Chairman’s Exemplary Faculty Prize, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2021 

  • Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), 2018 

  • Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), 2013 

  • Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), 2016 Fulbright Scholar, 2009-2010

  • Board Member, Interfaith Hospitality Network Homeless Shelter, 2019-present