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New Chairs Bring Leadership Experience to School of Engineering

Monday, 12 November 2012 14:55 CST

Three new department chairs are now on the job at the University of Kansas School of Engineering. Theodore Bergman in mechanical engineering and Zhi Jian “Z.J.” Wang in aerospace engineering began as chairs of their respective departments at the start of the fall semester. They join Tom Mulinazzi, who in July was appointed interim chair of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.

“It is a time of growth at the School of Engineering — in facilities, faculty numbers and student enrollment – and I am confident these departments are in great hands going forward,” said Interim Dean of Engineering Stan Rolfe. “We welcome Professors Bergman and Wang to campus, and are blessed to have someone with Professor Mulinazzi’s skills and knowledge to step forward for this year. I also want to express a level of gratitude to the previous chairs — Craig Adams, Ron Dougherty and Mark Ewing — for their vision and leadership in guiding their respective departments the past several years.”

Aerospace Engineering

Z.J. Wang, a Spahr Professor, comes to KU with a vision for growing research dollars and faculty numbers in the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

“KU aerospace engineering is extremely strong in education, the recent awards from AIAA are a validation of that … but there’s an opportunity to elevate research in the department,” Wang said.

Wang noted KU’s position as a leader in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, and sees an opportunity to expand.

“One of the things I’d like to do is build on KU’s UAV program and team up with other leaders in the area — such as aerospace companies in the Wichita area and the engineering schools at Kansas State University and Wichita State University — and work to design and implement a major UAV research and development center here at KU in the next five years,” Wang said. “It seems like a natural extension of the work at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets.”

As research efforts expand, Wang knows it’s critical to maintain the excellent education students receive in the classroom

“A top priority is really to reduce the teaching load so that faculty can realistically spend time on their research. We’re bringing in one additional faculty member next year, and if the UAV center becomes a reality, that will create additional opportunities for hiring,” Wang said.

Wang received his undergraduate degree in China, then studied at the University of Glasgow, where he received his doctorate in computational fluid dynamics. He went on to conduct postdoctoral research at Glasgow and Oxford University. Wang then worked in private industry at CFD Research Corporation in Huntsville, Ala., where he worked on projects for the Department of Defense, NASA and other government agencies. In 2000, he moved into higher education, accepting a position in the mechanical engineering department at Michigan State University. Since 2005, Wang had worked at Iowa State University in aerospace engineering.

Wang said he looks forward to working with great colleagues to continue to grow the department.

“Aerospace faculty is extremely collegial. Everyone works together very well. We have a common vision and work together to reach our goals. It’s a great environment,” said Wang.

Wang replaces Mark Ewing, who remains at KU as director of the flight research laboratory and as associate professor of aerospace engineering.

Mechanical Engineering


Theodore Bergman is returning to his Jayhawk roots to lead KU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Bergman, a native of Seneca, earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from KU in 1978.

Bergman, who is also a Spahr Professor, sees an opportunity for the mechanical engineering department to grow in several key areas. He said it’s especially crucial now as KU works to retain its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

“We need to expand our research portfolio. I’m excited about the possibilities of energy research, and I’m eager to help the department and the School of Engineering as we strategically pursue our goals in this area,” Bergman said.

Bergman said he’s seen too many institutions make the mistake of shortchanging undergraduate education at the expense of growing research and said it’s critical to focus on growing both areas.

“It’s not a matter of either or, it’s a matter of how you integrate undergraduate education and research effectively. I want to help make the degree from KU mechanical engineering of higher visibility across the nation and across the world,” Bergman said.

After earning his undergraduate degree from KU, Bergman spent two years at Black and Veatch in Overland Park. He then enrolled at Purdue, where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering. In 1985, he began his career in higher education at the University of Texas-Austin, where he worked for 11 years as a professor of mechanical engineering.

Bergman spent the past 16 years at the University of Connecticut after accepting a position in the mechanical engineering department in 1996. While at UConn, he spent six years as the head of the department, as well as two years as associate dean for research and outreach. He also had a two-year leave from the university to work for the National Science Foundation as the program director in Thermal Transport Processes.

Bergman replaces Ron Dougherty, who remains at KU as a professor of mechanical engineering.

Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering


Professor Tom Mulinazzi is serving as interim chair of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering. He assumed that role in July upon the departure of Craig Adams, chair and J.L. Constant distinguished professor, who took a similar position at Utah State University.

Mulinazzi has been at KU since 1979 and has held several leadership roles during that time. Most recently he served as department chair between 2003 and 2008. From 1992 to 2001, he served as associate dean for the School of Engineering. He is a respected voice in the Kansas engineering community and recently completed the maximum 12-year term serving on the Kansas State Board of Technical Professions.

“I’m honored to serve in this capacity and look forward to guiding the department through the year,” Mulinazzi said. A search is under way for a permanent department chair.