PASADENA—Christopher Brennen, professor of mechanical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, assumed the duties of vice president for student affairs on January 1, replacing Gary Lorden, professor of mathematics, who is stepping down after an eight-year term.
Brennen has much experience in student affairs, having served as dean of students from 1988 to 1992, and as master of student houses from 1983 to 1987. "Chris brings with him considerable talent and expertise," says Caltech President David Baltimore. "I look forward to working with him and drawing on his knowledge of Caltech and its students."
Brennen came to Caltech in 1969 on a Fulbright Scholarship, and joined the teaching faculty in 1976 as an associate professor. He was appointed professor in 1982, and executive officer for mechanical engineering in 1993.
In mechanical engineering, Brennen conducts research on complex multiphase and multicomponent flows that are a ubiquitous part of almost all existing energy systems. A particular emphasis is on the prediction of the dynamic characteristics of multiphase flows or their behavior at high concentrations. One project of Brennen's is directed at improved understanding of the dynamics and acoustics of cavitation.
The author of more than 180 technical papers, Brennen has also authored seven books, one of which is being translated into Japanese. An avid hiker, Brennen has written a book entitled Adventure Hiking and Canyoneering in the San Gabriels, which is currently under review by a publisher.
The environment for student affairs at universities has changed a great deal in the 10 years since he was master of student houses, Brennen says. "Both the general public and the government expect a university to take a greater parental role." Further changes include the makeup of the Caltech student body, which now has more female and minority students. "There is now a greater appreciation of the needs of particular groups," he says.
One thing, however, hasn't changed, says Brennen. "Caltech students are still the same marvelously bright, enthusiastic, caring, and responsible people they've always been. I look forward to getting to know them better." Brennen was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and recieved his BA (1963), MA (1966), and his DPhil (1967) from the University of Oxford. He and his wife, Doreen, live in Sierra Madre, California.