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Laursen Named Chair of Mechanical Engineering Department

Tod LaursenProfessor Tod Laursen has been named chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Dean Robert Clark and Dean designee Tom Katsouleas announced on June 26. He succeeds professor Franklin H. Cocks, who served as interim chair during the 2007/2008 academic year.

“Tod is well known and respected for his scholarship, leadership, judgment and academic values. He has ambitious goals for MEMS and we expect him to be a transformative Chair,” said Katsouleas.

Laursen received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University in 1992. His earlier degrees were an M.S. from Stanford in 1989 and a B.S. from Oregon State University in 1986. Before joining the Duke faculty in 1992, Dr. Laursen worked as a solid mechanics analyst at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1986 to 1992. He had obtained previous structural analysis experience while working for Boeing in 1985.

Laursen has served as Pratt’s Senior Associate Dean for Education since 2003 and has led the school through major curriculum enhancements. Under his leadership, the Pratt School and Duke’s Department of Physics redesigned the core physics courses required for all engineering majors. By embedding practical engineering applications into the physics classes and labs, these courses have become stronger and more productive foundation pieces in both the engineering and physics curriculum. The success of this approach was recently featured in the April 2008 issue of Prism, the magazine of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Other curricular foci during his service as Sr. Associate Dean included the establishment of first year design alternatives for incoming students, the redesign and standardization of the first year engineering computation requirement, and the establishment of major interdisciplinary certificate programs with significant components in Engineering, including the new Energy and the Environment Certificate (joint with Nicholas) and MEMS’s own Aerospace Certificate.

He developed and currently teaches EGR 10: Introduction to Engineering, a course designed specifically to expose incoming freshmen students to the vast career options of engineering before choosing an engineering major, and to get a first taste of hands-on design.

Laursen led the piloting of new teaching laboratories in the Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences and the renovation of the Teer Engineering Building into a modern teaching hub with student design labs, an information commons, a hatchery for entrepreneurship ideas, and a consolidated office suite for the academic deans and staff who directly support our students. These facilities will open in the Fall of 2008.

Laursen has also positioned Pratt for the upcoming ABET review. On a practical note, Tod has graciously agreed to continue to work closely with Linda Franzoni, as previously planned, to oversee the upcoming ABET review to its fruition as well. He has also agreed to assist in the transition of a number of irons in the fire including the Teer renovation, rollout of the E&E certificate program and others.

As a professor, Laursen teaches undergraduate courses in engineering computing and engineering science and teaches graduate courses in continuum mechanics, engineering analysis, finite element methods, and the use of finite element methods for the solution of nonlinear problems. His research activities fall largely under these same categories.

Laursen was elected a Fellow of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) in 2008. He is also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the United States Association for Computational Mechanics, Tau Beta Pi-the National Engineering Honor Society, and Pi Tau Sigma - the National Honorary Mechanical Engineering Fraternity.