Engineering dean finalists announced

October 5, 2012 By Jill Sakai

The University of Wisconsin–Madison today named four finalists for the deanship of the College of Engineering.

A 16-person committee chaired by James Rawlings, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and including faculty, staff, students, and a member of the engineering Industrial Advisory Board, screened a national pool of applicants and recommended the four candidates to Interim Chancellor David Ward and Provost Paul M. DeLuca Jr.

The finalists are:

Christopher Ober, Francis Norwood Bard Professor of Materials Engineering at Cornell University.

A Cornell professor of materials science and engineering since 1986, Ober specializes in functional polymer research, creating and refining new polymers suitable for applications including lithography, flexible electronics, and biointerfaces. His research technology is currently being developed further by two start-up companies, one of which he cofounded. Ober is a past director of his department and served as interim dean of engineering from 2009 to 2010. He was elected to the inaugural class of fellows of the American Chemical Society in 2009.

Ober holds a doctorate in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Plato Malozemoff Chair of Materials Science and Engineering and professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Through a range of academic, industry, and government positions, Ramesh has developed extensive expertise in complex functional oxide thin film materials, with research related to applications including data storage, superconductors, and materials that couple electricity and magnetism. From 2011 until August 2012, he directed the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to develop and promote U.S. solar technology. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2011 and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Materials Research Society, and American Physical Society.

Ramesh holds a doctorate in materials science from UC Berkeley.

Ian Robertson, Donald B. Willett Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and director of the National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research.

In the UIUC Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Robertson studies the basic processes underlying mechanical responses of materials exposed to extreme conditions, including strain transfer across interfaces and deformation mechanisms in a variety of materials and environments. He has served in a number of administrative posts, including department head and assistant dean in the UIUC College of Engineering. He was appointed director of the Division of Materials Research at the National Science Foundation in 2011 and elected a fellow of the American Society for Metals in 2009.

Robertson earned his doctorate in metallurgy from Oxford University.

William Wepfer, Eugene C. Gwaltney Jr. Chair in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

A professor since 1980 in the largest mechanical engineering program in the country, Wepfer’s research interests lie in thermal systems, heat transfer, and thermodynamics, with a focus on energy systems such as hybrid combustion-turbine fuel cell systems and combined heat-power systems. He previously served as Georgia Tech’s vice provost of distance learning and professional education and has held multiple elected positions in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, most recently as the vice president of education and a current role as senior vice president of public affairs and outreach.

Wepfer received his doctorate in mechanical engineering from UW–Madison.

Each of the candidates will visit campus later this fall to meet with faculty, staff, students, administrators, and other campus groups. Their visits will include presentations open to the entire campus community. More information will become available once the visits are scheduled.

The successful candidate will succeed Paul Peercy, who in February announced his intention to retire after 13 years leading the college.

The UW–Madison College of Engineering is consistently ranked among the top U.S. engineering schools for both undergraduate and graduate studies. It includes eight degree-granting departments as well as a department of engineering professional development, one of the nation’s oldest and largest continuing education programs for professional engineers.

The college annually enrolls around 3,750 undergraduates, 1,550 graduate students, and 11,000 professional engineering education students. In addition to several certificate and interdisciplinary degree programs, the College of Engineering offers six online master’s degrees, which were ranked this year by U.S. News & World Report as the best in the country in teaching practices and student engagement and student services and technologies.

The school is also home to 44 research centers and 21 research consortia, which collaborate with industry and government groups to identify and solve engineering challenges in energy, health care, transportation, security, sustainability, and many other areas.