Jonathan Colton

Industrial Design, International Affairs, and Mechanical Engineering

Jonathan Colton is professor of mechanical engineering, industrial design, and international affairs.

His research and teaching interests are at the intersections of global/international development and design, and manufacturing. He is a strong advocate of multidisciplinary hands-on design experiences. He directs Georgia Tech's U.S. Department of State’s Diplomacy Lab.

Colton was a member of the World Health Organization’s Immunization Practices Advisory Committee and served on the Board of Directors of the Global Soap Project. He was a U.S. Department of State Jefferson Science Fellow at the USAID Bureau for Food Security where he supported the scaling up of agricultural technologies in the Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s $1.1 billion per year response to global poverty and malnutrition. He also led an international team that designed a Net-Zero Energy Warehouse for Drugs and Vaccines for the government of Tunisia.

Colton’s composites research studies the design and fabrication of the next generation of aircraft with emphasis on continuous fiber reinforced materials and the conversion of post-industrial use materials for high performance transportation usage. His humanitarian design and engineering research is focused on agricultural mechanization in sub-Saharan Africa, including developing in-country capabilities for fabrication, service, and maintenance to improve local economies.


  • Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology (1985-present)
  • Professor of Industrial Design, Georgia Institute of Technology (2011-present)
  • Professor of International Affairs, Georgia Insitute of Technology (2013-present)
  • Jefferson Science Fellow and Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development 2013-2014)
  • Berzins Visiting Professor and David Parkin Visiting Professor, University of Bath (2013-present)
  • Visiting Professor, Imperial College, London (1994-1995)


Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Feb. 1986
S.M., Mechanical Engineering, Sept. 1982
S.B., Mechanical Engineering, Feb. 1981

Professional Affiliations

  • Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • Fellow, Society of Plastics Engineers
  • Registered Professional Engineer, Georgia and Maryland

Selected Awards

  • Order of the Engineer
  • Georgia Institute of Technology, George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Jack M. Zeigler Outstanding Educator Award
  • National Aeronautical and Space Administration, Space Act Award
  • Duke Energy Distinguished Visiting Scholar, University of North Carolina – Charlotte
  • Georgia Institute of Technology, George W. Woodruff Faculty Fellow
  • Society of Automotive Engineers, Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award
  • National Science Foundation, Presidential Young Investigator Award (1989-1994)
  • Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer
  • New Engineering Educator, American Society for Engineering Education