Byrnes to retire as dean of engineering on June 30, 2006

Christopher I. Byrnes, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Edward H. and Florence G. Skinner Professor in Systems Science and Mathematics, has announced his intention to retire as dean after 15 years in the position, effective June 30, 2006, according to Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

“Chris Byrnes has made lasting contributions to the School of Engineering & Applied Science, Washington University, and to the greater St. Louis community during his tenure as dean,” said Wrighton.

Christopher I. Byrnes
Christopher I. Byrnes

“He has broadened the awareness of the school’s academic prowess and strengthened ties with alumni and friends everywhere he goes. He has done so with his trademark enthusiasm, wit, sincerity and commitment. He has been a tireless advocate for the university as a whole and worked very effectively to build resources for important academic initiatives.

“Chris is responsible for leading one of our most important and successful efforts associated with the founding of the Department of Biomedical Engineering,” continued Wrighton. “Further, Chris has made remarkable progress in faculty recruiting while also maintaining an exceptionally productive and high-quality research program of his own.”

In announcing his plans to step down, Byrnes said, “I could not be more proud of the faculty and students in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and I am grateful for the generous support of alumni, parents and friends who have contributed to the success of this program.”

The chancellor will soon appoint an advisory committee to recommend successors. Byrnes will continue as a faculty member of the School of Engineering & Applied Science. He will have a sabbatical leave for the academic year 2006-07.

Byrnes, who became dean of the engineering school on July 1, 1991, oversees approximately 1,100 undergraduate students, 750 graduate students and 85 faculty members. He joined the faculty as professor of systems and control and chair of the Department of Systems Science and Mathematics in 1989.

Byrnes is only the eighth dean the School of Engineering & Applied Science has had since 1870 and the third longest in tenure. He succeeded James S. McKelvey, Ph.D., senior professor of chemical engineering, who was dean from 1964 to 1991.

As dean, Byrnes has ushered in many innovations and strengthened ties and activities with alumni. Undergraduate applications climbed from 1,400 in 1994 to nearly 3,400 in 2005, at a time of declining national enrollments in engineering.

The school has developed an internationally recognized research program in networking and telecommunications and started a very popular and highly renowned Department of Biomedical Engineering in 1997. In 2000, the interdisciplinary Environmental Engineering Science Program was started at Washington University.

In 1993, the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program was begun. At the time, the innovative program was the only known partnership between a public and private university to offer an undergraduate engineering degree to nontraditional students who are place-bound. The joint program appeals to a broad range of students who normally would not pursue engineering for lack of time and/or resources.

Byrnes’ field is systems science and control. Among his research interests are feedback design in automatic control, nonlinear dynamics and control, and estimation and filtering. He has applied his research over two decades in aerospace, electrical power systems, signal processing and speech synthesis, among other areas.

Byrnes is a native of New York City. He received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Manhattan College in 1971 and master’s and doctoral degrees, also in mathematics, from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1973 and 1975, respectively. He began his academic career as an instructor of mathematics at the University of Utah in 1975.

He joined the Harvard University faculty in 1978 as an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Mathematics and the Division of Applied Science. He was promoted in 1983 to associate professor on the Gordon McKay Endowment in the Division of Applied Science. He has also taught at Arizona State University and has held visiting appointments at institutions in Europe, Japan and the former Soviet Union, as well as in the United States.

Byrnes was awarded an honorary doctor of technology by Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology in 1998. From 1986-1990, he was an adjunct professor at the institute, which is in Stockholm, and was a visiting professor there in 1985, 1991 and 2000.

In 2001, Byrnes was installed as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences.

Byrnes serves on the board of directors of several corporations and is chairman emeritus of the board of the Center for Emerging Technologies in St. Louis.

A fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Byrnes has won numerous best-paper awards, the most recent the 2005 W.T. and Idalia Reid Prize, one of the most prestigious in the field of differential equations and control theory.