David U. Furrer’s professional life has come full circle. He began his career as a materials engineer at Pratt & Whitney, and 25 years later, Furrer is back at the company as a senior fellow and discipline lead. In between, he became a leading international authority on aerospace material.
Originally from Dodgeville, Wisconsin, Furrer was motivated to pursue engineering by a couple of his high school teachers. At UW-Madison, he found another mentor in Materials Science and Engineering Professor John Perepezko, whose research sparked Furrer’s interest in materials. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical engineering at UW-Madison in 1986 and 1988, respectively. At UW-Madison Furrer also met his wife, Patti, who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical engineering in 1983 and 1990, respectively.
After graduating, Furrer joined Pratt & Whitney, moving on to SSI Technologies as a metallurgical engineer, and Ladish Company Inc, where he progressed to advanced positions. In 1999, he earned his doctorate in engineering from the Universität Ulm in Germany and continued at Ladish, becoming chief metallurgist in 2006. In 2006, Furrer joined Rolls-Royce, where he eventually became chief of strategic materials and process technology. He rejoined Pratt & Whitney in 2010. His current role is the company’s highest technical position. He is responsible for leading all of the materials discipline chiefs and materials fellows in developing technical strategy and improving all materials engineering work.
A variety of governmental and industrial groups recognize Furrer’s expertise. He has advised the U.S. Air Force as chair of the Metals Affordability Consortium and participated on the National Academy of Sciences National Materials Advisory Board.
Furrer also is a champion for establishing closer links between materials technology and other engineering functions. His contributions have advanced processing methods for a wide range of materials, enabling higher-performance components for turbine engines, airframes and rocket applications. He has received many patents, awards and honors, including the Johnson Controls Award for Outstanding Part-Time Faculty for his work as an adjunct professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering from 2000-2006. Furrer has published more than 70 journal articles and conference proceeding and is the editor of two handbooks. He also is active as a member of several professional engineering organizations, including TMS and ASM-International, where he is a member of the board of trustees and participates in high school and university scholarship efforts.