Alan Snyder receives Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Alan Snyder, a Penn State bioengineering alumnus, was recently named one of 12 recipients of the 2019 Outstanding Engineering Alumni (OEA) Award.

Established in 1966, the OEA award is the highest honor bestowed by the Penn State College of Engineering and recognizes graduates who have reached exceptional levels of professional achievement.

Snyder received a bachelor’s degree in engineering science and a Ph.D. in bioengineering from Penn State. His interest in biomedical engineering evolved while an undergraduate, and although Penn State at the time did not offer a biomedical engineering bachelor’s degree, he improvised. He took advantage of the then engineering science program having fewer required courses than other engineering majors, giving him flexibility to take biomedical-related electives.

“The number of technical courses required was basically the same as the other programs, but you got to choose more of what you took,” Snyder said. “In some ways I put together a biomedical engineering major before there was one because I took life science courses that I wouldn't be able to fit in with the traditional engineering majors at the time.”

His journey into biomedical engineering was motivated by an undergraduate job opportunity. He landed a student lab position with Penn State’s Artificial Heart Lab, which was run by John Brighton, former dean of the College of Engineering and University provost who was a mechanical engineering professor at the time, and Win Phillips, professor of aerospace engineering.

Snyder points to involvement in the project as a life-changing experience for him.

“That entry into the lab environment as a junior is really what changed everything for me,” he said. “It was a world I had never known about and from that point forward, it was my default place to go. Even if I didn’t have lab hours that day, I’d do my homework there and hang out with the graduate students.”

As a graduate student, Snyder’s work on artificial hearts continued. After completing most of his required classes, he moved to Penn State Hershey to complete his doctorate.

“We actually built devices in the lab for patients because no one was making them commercially,” Snyder said. “Being part of that would be a gift for anyone. For a student, it was remarkable.”

After earning his Ph.D. in 1987, Snyder remained at Penn State, joining the faculty as an assistant professor, bioengineering. He later held multiple administrative roles in Penn State’s College of Medicine, including interim vice dean for research and associate vice president for health sciences research, and associate dean for technology development.

Snyder said he remained in academia because of the high energy and exchange of ideas, something he discovered a love for as a student at Penn State, and for the involvement in cultivating the next generation.

“How do you describe the energy you have in an academic environment?” Snyder said. “They are environments of ideas and communities of people struggling with ideas, whether it's students trying to get their heads around the fundamental concepts that faculty are trying to get across, or faculty and grad students struggling with things that nobody quite understands yet. And that to me is just a kind of vibrant and fundamentally important environment. To be part of it is a real gift.”

In 2010, Snyder began his current position as vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies at Lehigh University. In this position, he has been motivated by his fond memories as a Penn State undergraduate researcher to build an inspiring research experience for students at Lehigh.

“I've dedicated myself to ensuring that all students, undergraduate and graduate, are gaining benefit from being embedded in a research environment,” Snyder said. “It’s some of the most satisfying work I’ve ever done.”

Snyder will be honored on April 8 at the College of Engineering’s annual Outstanding Engineering Alumni Awards ceremony at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus.


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Jamie Oberdick

Head and shoulder shot of Alan Snyder in light colored shirt

Alan Snyder

"That entry into the lab environment as a junior is really what changed everything for me."



The Department of Biomedical Engineering administers the undergraduate major in biomedical engineering, and is a part of the university-wide Intercollege Graduate Degree Program, offering both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Bioengineering. Our work combines traditional engineering principles with medicine and technology for the betterment of human health and society. 

Department of Biomedical Engineering

122 Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-863-6614