Considered a visionary leader with an innate curiosity and an insatiable appetite for knowledge and discovery in today’s steel industry, Greg Ludkovsky developed his love for steel in Russia in the 1960s and '70s.

A graduate of the Moscow Technological University, Ludkovsky studied both solid state physics and chemistry, and earned his doctorate in solid state physics there in 1972. His career started in Russia as a researcher in that field. In 1979, he came to the U.S. and joined what was then Inland Steel Co. in the Indiana Research Laboratory in East Chicago.

During his tenure, Ludkovsky held numerous positions in the research and development department before becoming vice president of research and development in 1995. In 1998, he was named chief technology officer of Ispat International and, later, for Mittal Steel C. In 2007, he was promoted to his current role of vice president and head of global research and development at ArcelorMittal.

That year, he facilitated the successful merger of North American and European research and development for the company.

"Steel is significant. It is more exciting and intriguing than it’s been perceived," said Ludkovsky, who heads 12 ArcelorMittal research facilities around the world employing 1,300 researchers.

"Steel is one of the few products to reinvent itself in the most profound way," he said. "In 1979 when I came to the United States and joined what was then Inland Steel in East Chicago, steel had a 100 MPa (a measurement of the tensile strength). Today it is strengthened to 2000 MPa. No material has a track record made in such a dramatic and profound way."

Spreading the message

Ludkovsky communicates his enthusiasm to everyone around him, creating value for ArcelorMittal and the entire steel industry.

"Greg is an outstanding statesman and advocate for steel products," said Lou Schorsch, CEO of ArcelorMittal Americas. "I know of few individuals who can be as compelling or effective in interacting with customers, understanding them and anticipating their needs. For several decades now he has been at the forefront of efforts to introduce new steel products and develop new steel processes."

Of being named to The Times Industry & Business Hall of Fame for 2016, Ludkovsky said he’s "extremely fortunate to be surrounded by very talented people."

"I have work friends who have helped me, people I have been blessed to work with," he said.

The 67-year old Ludkovsky said his biggest thrill remains "inventing things that didn’t exist yesterday, inventing new ways to use steel."

In fact, Ludkovsky’s vision led him to be the initiator of early research involvement with car manufacturers in the early 1980s, said Amanda Allen, project specialist with ArcelorMittal Americas in Chicago.

"Thanks to the customer intimacy developed with this approach and his guidance, ArcelorMittal’s role has transformed from materials supplier to solutions supplier, working directly with automotive original equipment manufacturers to develop unique steels that have the ability to achieve weight savings requirements while increasing safety and material strength," Allen said.

According to Allen, ArcelorMittal’s research and development role includes being a reliable partner for the company and its individual business units. In addition research and development is at the forefront of technological trends in the steelmaking industry.

"Their work enables ArcelorMittal to develop new steel products, solutions and processes to meet or anticipate the needs of customers," she said. "These advancements also support a low-carbon world, demonstrating the sustainable advantages available through product innovation."

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Under Ludkovsky’s leadership, the research and development center in East Chicago continues to play a critical role in the work of global research and development, Allen said. In close proximity to two integrated steelmaking facilities, Burns Harbor and Indiana Harbor, it has the ability to touch the steelmaking process in real time, respond to any problems and make the research increasingly relevant.

Steel goes sustainable

Although the steel industry will continue to change, Ludkovsky said he is confident that steel always will be a part of Northwest Indiana’s future. The single biggest evolution will be steel’s enhanced ecological friendliness, he noted.

The future Ludkovsky envisions "minimizes the energy and environmental footprint of products and processes, and optimizes raw materials to have direct consequences on sustainability."

According to Geof Benson, executive director of the Dunes Learning Center, his longtime friend has always been committed to Northwest Indiana’s environment, in giving back to the community and being a role model for East Chicago and the world at large.

"Greg’s insistence that the land be restored into dune and swale has proven to be a valuable resource for engaging the school kids in stewardship and exploration of the incredible biodiversity that is there," Benson said.

Teaching for tomorrow

"He has been totally supportive of R&D engaging with the East Chicago school system and has supported the efforts to get students into the facility to see and be inspired by the amazing science that occurs there," Benson said.

That commitment helps cultivate a pipeline of talented scientists and engineers who will be key for the steel plants of the future, Ludkovsky said.

"We need to carry this message to young people. We need to promote unique opportunities for growth within the organization and show people that the most exciting and rewarding thing is never to be bored," he said, adding that "we are on the verge of an incredible number of scientific breakthroughs that will change how steel is made and the definition of what steel is."

Ludkovsky spends much of this time at each of the 12 ArcelorMittal research and development facilities around the globe and has a residence in Luxembourg.

Family also remains a major focus for Ludkovsky.

"My wife, Ludmila, just retired from the Gary schools after 30 years. She loved her profession. She is a wonderful violinist and has (recorded) CDs. She is a genius," he said.

Recently Ludkovsky visited his son, Dennis, and "three adorable grandchildren" in London.

"Life is very short. If you are not enjoying the work you do, it’s an enormous waste of life," Ludkovsky said. "The biggest tragedy is unrealized potential."