Jan Drewes Achenbach is a professor emeritus at Northwestern University. Achenbach was born in the northern region of the Netherlands, in Leeuwarden. He studied aeronautics at Delft University of Technology, which he finished with a M.Sc. degree in 1959. Thereafter, he went to the United States, Stanford University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1962. After working for a year as a preceptor at Columbia University, he was then appointed as assistant professor at Northwestern University.
Achenbach has developed methods for flaw detection and characterization by using contact transducers, imaging techniques and laser-based ultrasonics. He has also developed methods for thin-layer characterization by acoustic microscopy. Work is both analytical and experimental in nature, with extensive cooperation with investigators from other universities and from industrial organizations on theoretical experimental projects. Work in fracture mechanics has been primarily on dynamic fracture. He also carries out research on structural acoustics and on the mechanical behavior of composite materials.