Deborah Mielewski | AIChE

Deborah Mielewski

Dr. Deborah Mielewski is the Henry Ford Technical Fellow of Sustainability at Ford Motor Company. She received her B.S.E. ('86), M.S.E. ('93), and Ph.D. ('98) degrees in Chemical Engineering, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and has been with Ford for 35 years. Because of her passion for preserving the environment, she initiated the biomaterials program at Ford Research in 2001, when “being green” was not popular. Her team was the first to demonstrate soy-based foam that met all the requirements for automotive seating and Ford launched soy-based foam on the 2008 Mustang, a first for the industry. Since then, soy seat cushions, backs, and headrests have been used on every Ford North American-built vehicle (over 22 million vehicles). reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 300 million pounds and utilizing over a trillion soybeans! 

The Sustainable and Emerging Materials group continues to pioneer the development of sustainable plastic materials that meet stringent automotive requirements, including natural fiber reinforced plastics and polymer resins made from renewable feedstocks. Ford has launched a dozen plant-based materials in production vehicles, establishing a reputation as a leader. Dr. Mielewski’s laboratory at Ford hosts around a dozen interns every summer to teach sustainable practices through invention and experimentation with new materials. In 2019, Ford announced the production of headlamp housings from a coffee chaff composite through a partnership with McDonald’s. Last year, Ford was the first to deploy 100% ocean plastic-derived parts on the Bronco Sport. 

Dr. Mielewski is passionate about the work she does to reduce Ford’s environmental footprint and believes that these new materials will be ubiquitous in the future. She has appeared in a Ford national commercial, the NOVA “Making Things” series, TEDx, and Smithsonian’s “The Age of Plastics” symposium and has been interviewed by countless media outlets. She has over 100 referred journal publications and 25 U. S. patents. Her work has been acknowledged with the Henry Ford Technology Award, the R&D100 Award, the Free Press Automotive Leadership Award, the Environmental Management Association Award, 6 SPE Environmental Innovation Awards, the American Chemical Society’s Industrial Innovation Award, Business Intelligence Group’s 2021 Sustainability Champion of the Year, FISITAs Technical Academy of Technical Leadership, and the AIChE Andrew Chase Award from the Forest Bioproducts Division.