Brian Lattimer, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been named the department’s interim head, effective July 25, 2023. He succeeds Azim Eskandarian, who was recently appointed dean and William H. Goodwin, Jr. Endowed Chair for the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering.

“We wish Azim the best in his professional endeavors and thank him for his service,” said Julie Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “We are excited for Brian to continue the excellent work being produced in mechanical engineering, one of our largest departments and broadest disciplines.” 

A national search for the new department head will commence in fall 2023.

Lattimer, a three-time Hokie, earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech in the 1990s. Today, he directs the Extreme Environments and Materials Lab, which focuses on safety in extreme environments primarily related to fire.

Over his 26-year career in industry and academia, he has been a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than 50 projects totaling over $28 million in funding. These projects have included a multitude of different applications, including building design, ship construction, electric vehicles, passenger rail transportation, environmentally friendly suppression, and robotic firefighting.

As principal on a project for the U.S. Navy, he developed full-size humanoid robots to perform watch and fire suppression on ships. His research also provided scientific understanding of physical processes in fires and material behavior, such as burning and ignition of building materials when exposed to firebrand showers in wildfires.

Recently, Lattimer collaborated with two colleagues to develop firefighting foams that are not harmful to the environment. This research is being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense for $1.2 million.

“The Mechanical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech is a vibrant and collegial department filled with talented students, staff, and faculty,” said Lattimer. “I'm excited to serve the department in this interim role and to support our continued growth and excellence.”

Eskandarian, who earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1983, returned to the university in 2015 as department head. Three years later, he was named the Nicholas and Rebecca des Champs Chair/Professor. He will begin his new role at Virginia Commonwealth University on Aug. 1.

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