Christian Puttlitz, who has worked for 16 years as a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University, has been named department head.
Puttlitz took over for his predecessor, Susan James, as interim head in January, and was officially appointed as the 13th head of the department on July 1.
Puttlitz brings strong leadership and a robust set of goals and objectives for the department. He joined the department in 2005 as an assistant professor. He has held various positions throughout his time at CSU including interim director of the School of Biomedical Engineering, associate department head for Mechanical Engineering Graduate Studies, and director of the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Laboratory, a position he has held since his arrival at CSU.
“Christian has been a very successful faculty member and leader of a large research group,” said Dean Dave McLean. “He is a nationally recognized leader in the investigation of diseased and treated orthopaedic conditions in animals and humans using engineering mechanics. I look forward to working with him in this important leadership role.”
Puttlitz will lead the department into its 150th year, with goals to build and evolve the department’s research ambitions, undergraduate experience, minority enrollment, special-programs fundraising, and faculty and staff. He has a joint appointment in the School of Biomedical Engineering.
In terms of research ambitions, Puttlitz has interest in acquiring long-term funding for faculty by applying for large federal center grants. “We have the intellectual power to attain these prestigious grants, and they would elevate our department to the next level,” he said.
To execute a next-level research environment, he will also work to expand the number of Ph.D. students. “A strong Ph.D. program is a hallmark of a good department,” he added.
Improving the department’s undergraduate experience by decreasing class sizes, focusing on freshmen retention, and hiring additional faculty and advisers are all part of his strategic plan. To specifically address freshman retention, he has already begun working with undergraduate advisers and student mentors to create and build upon student organizations and their emphasis on fostering community and transparent communication with administration.
With the enrollment of underrepresented students at an all-time high, Puttlitz wants to make an even bigger splash. “We have an obligation to do better. Reaching these groups at a high-school level is crucial in developing their engineering interests, and coming from a land-grant university, my goal is that the department reflects the demographics of the state,” Puttlitz said.
He has already made a measurable impact in fundraising. Funds have been raised for a new undergraduate student organization, the MECH Executive Board, to create and foster a sense of community among freshmen through programs such as tailgate events, and open forums with the department head to nurture communication and accountability.
An upcoming initiative would assist in a new study abroad program for incoming underrepresented freshmen. That would likely include a trip to Berlin, Germany to connect with professionals at the BMW Motorcycle Plant and Deutsche Bahn, as well as a lecture series in a global classroom, and meet-and-greet with students from a German university. “This program would be life-changing for a motivated freshman who is just getting a grasp of the impact engineering can have on the world,” said Puttlitz.
Encouraging staff members to partake in professional development opportunities to learn cutting-edge techniques – and evolve the way departmental work is conducted – is another goal on Puttlitz’s agenda. “Something that gets overlooked in the department head’s role is empowering the staff,” he said.
“Christian will be a wonderful and dedicated department head. He is an excellent educator, scholar, and smart administrator,” said James, his predecessor. “His genuine dedication to the department and the success of all its student, staff, and faculty is particularly evident in all he does. I look forward to working with him and wish him luck, as we continue to make the Department of Mechanical Engineering at CSU even more distinguished.”