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Wind engineering expert to lead Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

TROY, N.Y. — Wind engineering expert Chris Letchford, Ph.D., will join Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as professor and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“Dr. Letchford is a world-class researcher, a gifted educator, and an effective and passionate leader who will guide the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering toward even greater recognition and success,” said David Rosowsky, dean of the School of Engineering at Rensselaer. “Rensselaer has a long history and rich tradition in civil and environmental engineering, and Dr. Letchford will ensure the Institute’s ongoing leadership and influence in this important field.”

Letchford joins Rensselaer from the University of Tasmania, Australia (UTAS), where he has served since 2007 as professor and head of the School of Engineering. Prior to UTAS, he served as professor, senior associate dean, and associate director of the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center from 1999-2007 at Texas Tech University. He served as faculty member from 1987-1999 at the University of Queensland in Australia. Before his career in academia, he was a structural engineer at Ove Arup & Partners in London, where he worked on the designs for the Old Vic Theatre refurbishment in London and the Menil Collection Museum in Houston.

A global leader in wind engineering and aerodynamics, Letchford has published more than 140 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers. His research projects range from wind power generation and modeling to studying how wind and ocean waves interact to investigating the long-term impacts of climate change on infrastructure, transportation, and energy production. His other research interests include wind loads on structures, vortex-induced vibrations, wind climatology, debris flight mechanics, and experimental methods. At Texas Tech, he developed several innovative systems to model and simulate thunderstorm downdrafts and tornado winds.

“It is fitting that I will now join the upstate New York community, the same region where Eleanor Roosevelt — an educator role model of mine — lived and worked,” Letchford said. “In 1927, Roosevelt said ‘the main thing in education is the interest aroused in a young mind by a vivid stimulating personality.’ In joining Rensselaer at this significant stage of its history, I would like to continue the tradition of being that vivid stimulating person, not only for our students, but also for the broader wind engineering research community.”

Active and highly regarded in his field, Letchford was elected the Asia-Pacific representative of the International Association of Wind Engineering (IAWE). He also is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and sits on its wind effects, aerodynamics, and tall buildings committees. He is a fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, and is a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng). He currently chairs the Centre for Engineering Leadership & Management in Tasmania and is a member of the Tasmanian Division Committee of Engineers, Australia. From 2003-2006 he held a leadership role at the American Association of Wind Engineering (AAWE), and from 1995-1999 and 2007-2009 chaired the Australasian Wind Engineering Society (AWES).

Letchford obtained his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Queensland, and went on to earn his doctoral degree in wind engineering from Oxford University.

He is the second senior faculty member recruited by the Rensselaer School of Engineering this year into the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Hydrology and soil science pioneer Philippe Baveye joined the Institute in August as the Kodak Chair in Environmental Engineering.