New faculty member Christopher Muir brings 'real world' experience
Confronted with an increase in undergraduate enrollment, and a desire by students to work with practicing engineers with “real world” experience, the Department of Mechanical Engineering didn’t have to look very far for help.
Christopher Muir, who has joined the department as a full-time associate professor, has taught on and off as a part-time adjunct professor for the department since 2001.
Muir, who received a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from LeHigh University in 1996, has 18 years experience as a principal engineer at the Eastman Kodak Co. He worked on mechanical designs for large Kodak commercial printers used for printing manuals, magazines, and color catalogues. “We’re talking printers on the order of easily 80 to 85 feet long,” said John Lambropoulos, chair of the department.
“Students have told us they want to know what an engineering job is really like, what it’s like to work on an engineering project, dealing with budgets, customers, and superiors, and coordinating design teams,” Lambropoulos said. “Chris obviously is well qualified to provide that.”
"Often in class I can motivate the topics with a particular experience I have had in my career," Muir said. "Examples might be patents, ethics, or why we need to learn a seemingly trivial technique well -- because I have done it a thousand times it seems in my career."
As a MechE instructor, Muir has mostly focused on computer-based simulation. "I enjoy working in a lab environment with the students. Mastering the building of a working simulation of a system is often as important, and sometimes more important, than the physical build. It can give the same level of satisfaction in both cases. The students often seem to genuinely appreciate their accomplishments and that can make it enjoyable for both the students and the instructor."
Muir will be the primary instructor for the department’s senior capstone mechanical design course.
"One of the areas that I have been working on this summer is modifying the timeline of the design sequence so that the students have more time dedicated to their capstone project," Muir said. "Also I have been working to solicit additional outside participation from local engineering companies. There is a strong engineering community in Rochester and the benefit of these interactions extends to both the students and the engineers that mentor them. Also, I plan on taking advantage of the facilities in Rettner hall for portions of the design sequence including lab space and some of the rapid prototyping capabilities."
Muir will also teach a numerical methods course and an introduction to solid mechanics. Lambropoulos said that Muir’s flexibility in taking on new assignments was another consideration in his hiring.
“Last school year -- on very short notice -- we wanted to have an upper level engineering computation course based on Matlab,” Lambropoulos noted. “Without hesitation, Chris said he would teach the course.”
“Clearly he enjoys interacting with students,” Lambropoulos added. “He’s very pleasant, very open, and he has a positive outlook. The students like him very much. You can tell someone enjoys teaching when, even as a part-time instructor, when the opportunity came for more teaching, he would accept it.”
Muir said he's eager to get started.
"The faculty in the department are a very impressive group," he said. "I have always admired the research work that is produced here as well as their attention to the undergraduates' experience. I look forward to developing collaborations in design and simulation."