Mechanical Engineering Professor and former Department Head Allan Kirkpatrick will deliver his last set of classes on May 14 after 40 years of teaching and research at CSU. His new title: Professor Emeritus.
Kirkpatrick has published five books and has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in applied thermal sciences. He is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and his teaching and research have been recognized with numerous awards.
Four decades at CSU
Kirkpatrick was originally attracted to CSU for its reputation as a leader in solar energy. In 1980, he joined a team working at the Solar Village – a group of residential buildings used to test different types of solar energy systems – and stayed ever since.
Kirkpatrick developed and taught courses in applied thermal sciences – fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, and design. In these courses, students learned how engineering devices heat up, cool down, and produce power.
His research focused on applied thermal sciences as well. He studied energy systems in buildings for 15 years, and internal combustion engines for an additional 25 years with efforts dedicated to reducing engine emissions.
During his time as department head, Kirkpatrick worked to grow a department focused on three areas of study: materials, biomedical engineering, and energy. He established critical mass in these areas, guiding the department to become what it is today.
But his main focus? It was always on the students and their educational experience.
“It was great working with excellent students,” Kirkpatrick said. “We figured out tough problems together, had our work accepted for publication, and the students went on to earn good jobs in their areas of expertise.”
We’re all human
Kirkpatrick contributes the key to motivating students in the affective aspect of education.
“Professors are real people with a variety of interests, and once students realize that, the depth of engagement can really grow,” he said. “Once you have a connection with a student, their desire to learn hard things increases.”
Kirkpatrick’s most meaningful moment during his tenure at CSU was when his students clapped at the end of a final class one semester. The applause filled a large lecture hall in the Clark building.
“It was truly magical,” he said.
“Dr. Kirkpatrick has had a long, distinguished career that has elevated the reputation of not only the Department of Mechanical Engineering, but CSU as a whole.”
– Christian Puttlitz, Mechanical Engineering Department Head
A legacy in engineering education
Kirkpatrick leaves a legacy for his involvement in curriculum change and assessment at the national and international levels. He helped lead an ASME task force called ‘Vision 2030’ that was charged with improving engineering education to be more flexible, creative, and industry-oriented. Most of the recommendations have been adopted by mechanical engineering programs.
Kirkpatrick also serves as a program evaluator for the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET). Every six years, engineering programs are reaccredited by volunteers such as him, assuring programs meet quality standards for their graduates.
He recently published a new edition of his internal combustion engines book, which is used worldwide by many schools. Students and professors alike contact Kirkpatrick with questions and requests for seminars. The timing is great for his career, and Kirkpatrick enjoys opportunities to talk with students across the globe and other experts in the field.
Plans for retirement
“I asked to keep an office on campus,” said Kirkpatrick, smiling. “I think there’s one more book in me. I enjoy the challenges of the written word”. Also, his ABET accreditation work will continue.
Kirkpatrick and his wife Susan have two children and five grandchildren in Fort Collins and Carbondale. He plans to spend time at their home in Steamboat Springs, make model boats and airplanes with his grandkids, and enjoy the extra time for hiking and travel.