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Professor Rick Neptune has been named interim chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering. He will assume the role on Jan. 1, 2016.

In early 2015, current Chair Jayathi Murthy was named the next dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Murthy joined the Cockrell School in 2012, becoming the first woman to head mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Under her leadership, the department has enjoyed top-10 rankings, launched significant initiatives to expand hands-on and project-based learning opportunities and increased female enrollment.

Neptune, who holds the John T. MacGuire Professorship in Mechanical Engineering, joined the Cockrell School faculty in 2001. He is an internationally recognized leader in the areas of biomechanics and neuromotor control of human movement and serves as director of the Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab at UT Austin.

Neptune’s research is focused on improving quality of life for various patient populations, such as lower-limb amputees, those with post-stroke hemiparesis and wheelchair users. He is also optimizing orthotic and prosthetic designs to enhance their performance using advanced additive manufacturing techniques.

He has received numerous awards for his groundbreaking research and his dedication to teaching, including the American Society of Biomechanics Young Scientist Award, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Engineering Society of Detroit/National Multiple Sclerosis Society Da Vinci Award, the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company Award for Excellence in Engineering Teaching, and the university’s Joe and Bettie Branson Ward Endowed Excellence Award. 

The Cockrell School is currently conducting a national search for the next department chair.

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