UCLA mechanical and aerospace engineer appointed as BCOE dean

Two years have passed since BCOE was assigned an interim dean, but now, an engineering professor from UCLA has been named the new official dean of the college. On Wednesday, April 4, Christopher S. Lynch was announced as the new dean of BCOE.

The current interim dean, Sharon Walker, took over in July of 2016 after the previous dean, Reza Abbashian, stepped down in January of the same year in order to be director of the Winston Chung Global Energy Center, a research center at UCR aimed at discovering and improving on sources of energy. Walker will step down from her interim position starting in September, when Lynch is scheduled to be the new official dean.

Lynch explained the path to his appointment as dean in a phone interview with The Highlander last Tuesday, starting in September of 1995 with his time as a faculty member at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was involved with a dual degree program in Georgia Tech Lorraine, a campus of the institute located in Metz, France. “I worked with American and French students in a dual degree program, and at the same time developed collaborations with another group in Germany,” Lynch explained.

Lynch found his time as a faculty member in France to be a very wholesome experience, one that seemed vital to graduate students. “That (experience) led me to really understand the importance of international experience,” Lynch noted, “both in graduate education and in preparing people to participate in an international economy as engineers.”

In 2002, Lynch later became associate chair for the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, where he was responsible for coordinating long-distance teaching programs. At the time, it was the largest mechanical engineering program in the U.S.

In September of 2007, he accepted a faculty position at UCLA, and was promptly called into a leadership position as the Master of Science of Engineering Online (MSOL) due to his past leadership experience. “I was mostly focused on research when I came to Los Angeles,” Lynch explained, “but with my experience, I was asked if i would take on leadership responsibilities with the MSOL program here at UCLA. I provided the leadership and growth for that program, and the year after I stepped down from it, we received the number 1 ranking from U.S. News and World Report.”

Lynch stepped down from the position in 2014 to get more involved with the development of the Translational Applications of Nanoscale Multiferroic Systems (TANMS), a center dedicated to the research and application of, and education regarding, technology on a near-to-at-microscopic scale. “I was heavily involved in the development of the TANMS and it really captures our research in nanoscale applications, things like computer memory, and very small magnetic devices that can capture magnetically tagged cells or DNA,” Lynch elaborated.

Lynch’s faculty years at UCLA were marked by an incident that ended in tragedy. In June of 2016, Lynch was involved in preventing further injury when a gunman at UCLA took the life of one of Lynch’s close colleagues, the late engineering professor William Klug. He and his colleagues alike continue to recall the event as a painful memory. “That’s a very difficult topic to talk about and it’s also a very difficult topic for many of my colleagues here,” Lynch expressed. “I’m not going to go into details about what happened, other than to say William Klug was a very good friend and colleague for all of us here at UCLA. It was just a horrible situation that happened and our hearts are still very much with his family and his children.”

When asked about his deanship, Lynch said he initially didn’t know much about BCOE, and devoted time to learning about UCR. “When I was contacted by recruiters, asking me to consider applying for the dean position, I started doing a lot of research on the college, the individual faculty, the overall organization at Riverside,” Lynch said. “I realized that, although a very young school, (UCR) is just an outstanding group of people who are both teaching and doing research in the BCOE. The more I learned, the more excited I got about the opportunity.”

As dean of BCOE, Lynch has plans to grow the school significantly. “Faculty needs to be added, and we need to accommodate the many students applying to the engineering program, so I will be very focused first on hiring,” Lynch said. “But we’re going to reach a certain size where there are going to be limitations on the physical structure, so I’ll also focus on what it’s going to take to add another engineering building, if that’s possible, and I’m very much hoping that it is.”

Lynch also hopes to increase the recognition of both present and future BCOE faculty. “There needs to be more highlighting of the accomplishments of the faculty, and both the national and international reputation of the Bourns College needs to built up based on accomplishments that have already been made and are being made now.”

Increasing the reputation of BCOE could potentially lead to other benefits; if the college’s reputation increases, interested groups may notice the college’s achievements and provide funds for the college to use for their purposes. The possibilities of where the money could be allocated ranges from engineering research to Lynch’s proposal for construction to even scholarships for BCOE students.

Lynch will officially be appointed as the new dean of BCOE on Saturday, Sept. 1.

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