Laursen Named President of Khalifa University in United Arab Emirates

2010-05-03 11:20

DURHAM, N.C. -- The Board of Trustees at Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (KUSTAR) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, announced the appointment of Duke University mechanical engineering professor Tod Laursen as its new president on May 3, 2010.

Laursen’s selection from more than 200 candidates following an extensive international search process that started in 2009. He will assume his position in August 2010.

"KUSTAR is a young university with big ambitions. The board of trustees was determined to find a president who matched these qualities,” wrote KUSTAR Interim President Arif Sultan Al Hammadi in a news announcement. “In Professor Laursen we have a leading engineer who is both academically renowned and passionate about science and technology. His interdisciplinary experience will prove invaluable in bringing together the various aspects of the student and faculty body, and uniting the different disciplines. We are confident that he will be an inspirational guiding force for our students and a motivated leader for our growing faculty and staff."

Laursen calls the opportunity to lead KUSTAR a profound honor and the opportunity of a lifetime. “Khalifa University is entering a new chapter in its history. We will be building a new campus and aggressively expanding the scope of our programmatic offerings. I see my responsibility as helping to shape the future of generations of technically-skilled graduates in the United Arab Emirates who can then contribute to the social and economic development of their nation.”  

“I see part of KUSTAR's mission is to foster a deeper understanding of the benefits of technical degrees and to inspire students with the far reaching career possibilities open to them,” he said. “Technical degrees teach young people analytical skills that can be applied in a number of different fields of endeavor, not just in technical careers per se.”

Duke engineering dean Tom Katsouleas describes Laursen as a transformative presence for the Pratt School of Engineering.

“If one looks at the improvements in a wide variety of metrics for the School including student satisfaction, freshman and senior design experiences and physical infrastructure, one can detect the point that Tod became involved in those activities,” Katsouleas said. “He created the Energy and Environment Certificate that has been such a distinctive addition to Duke undergraduate educational offerings. He has provided leadership for the school in so many ways including most recently taking the lead in planning the Engineering Design Center building, and chairing the Energy Engineering Committee.

“In two years as Chair of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science he has invigorated the department with several key faculty hires and new Masters of Engineering degrees,” Katsouleas said.  “On a personal level Tod has been a friend and valued advisor to me and to so many of us in the school. There has always been a wake of good cheer following his footsteps, and he will be deeply missed.”

Laursen served as senior associate dean for education for the Pratt School of Engineering from 2003 to 2008, and is currently the chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.  His teaching career at Duke University has spanned 18 years; serving first for 16 years as a faculty member in Civil and Environmental Engineering before becoming the Chair of MEMS in 2008.  Together with Professor John Dolbow, he is the co-director of the Duke Computational Mechanics Laboratory and is a recognized expert in the development of computational algorithms for treatment of interfaces in mechanical systems.

As senior associate dean for education, Laursen led the school through major curriculum enhancements such as redesigning 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 curricula.

He established first year design alternatives for incoming students, oversaw 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 the Nicholas School for the Environment and Earth Sciences).  On the graduate level, he worked with the graduate school to develop broader institutional fellowship opportunities for incoming PhD students, and overhauled the process by which graduate students are recruited, including school-sponsored graduate visitation days.

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. He presided over a 20% increase in the number of undergraduate engineering students over a four-year period of time.

Laursen was elected a Fellow of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) in 2008, and will be awarded Fellow distinction in the IACM (International Association on Computational Mechanics) in the summer of 2010.   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.

He earned 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, he worked as a solid mechanics analyst at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1986 to 1992 and worked for Boeing conducting structural analysis research in 1985.