The award recognises the beneficial service made to mankind by engineers by advancing standard of living or replenishing natural resources. According to the AIME, Apelian “[has worked] tirelessly for over 40 years dedicated to teaching, mentoring future engineering leaders, advancing the science and technology of material science and engineering (MSE) by conducting and supervising fundamental and applied research, publishing and presenting many technical papers, books, and patents, applying fundamental knowledge to industrial applications, establishing several academic-industry consortia, and advocating the broader role of MSE in solving global human challenges."

Apelian has worked in molten metal processing, new aluminium alloys, and innovative casting techniques and submitted more than 500 publications and 11 books. He has long been an advocate for redefining engineering education and changing the popular perception of engineers. Over the past two years, he has taught a seminar explores major challenges facing engineering in the 21st century using materials science and sustainability as a unifying theme.