Flores named Christopher I. Byrnes Professor of Engineering

Kathy Flores develops new metallic alloys for load-bearing applications in high-temperature environments

Beth Miller 
Katharine Flores

Katharine Flores, a renowned materials scientist who develops new complex metallic alloys and advanced manufacturing techniques, will be installed as the Christopher I. Byrnes Professor of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis at a ceremony Oct. 25, 2022, in the Stephen F. and Camilla T. Brauer Hall.

Flores is professor and associate chair for materials science in the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science in the McKelvey School of Engineering and director of the interdisciplinary Institute of Materials Science & Engineering. From November 2020 to May 2022, she was interim chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering.

“Kathy’s leadership of the Institute of Materials Science and Engineering has been critical both to elevating the PhD program to one that is highly competitive in materials science and to enhancing our research capacity to support state-of-the-art work by our faculty,” said Aaron F. Bobick, dean and the James M. McKelvey Professor. “Additionally, she demonstrated tremendous leadership amongst the faculty in her role as interim chair of our Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering department. I am delighted to recognize Kathy with the Christopher I. Byrnes Professorship in Engineering in recognition of her leadership and her research.”

Flores’ research includes fundamental studies of structure-property relationships in structurally- and compositionally complex materials, as well as more applied work to develop new metallic alloys for load-bearing applications in high-temperature environments. She leads research projects focused on quantitatively describing the inherently disordered atomic structure of metallic glasses and has pioneered high-throughput synthesis methods to rapidly explore the vast design space of “multi-principal element” alloys. She also is interested in developing new advanced manufacturing methods that use energy and raw materials more efficiently and sustainably.

Flores joined the Engineering faculty in 2012 from The Ohio State University, where she had been on the faculty since 2002, most recently as associate professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and director of education and outreach for the Center for Emergent Materials, a National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

A Washington University alumna, Flores earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the engineering school in 1995 and a master’s and doctorate in materials science and engineering from Stanford University in 1997 and 2000, respectively. She completed postdoctoral training in the Sports Materials Laboratory at Stanford University.

Among her honors and recognitions include receiving the Dean’s Faculty Award for Extraordinary Service in 2022; being named an Institute for School Partnership Faculty Fellow and receiving the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department Chair’s Award for Outstanding Teaching at Washington University, both in 2015; participating in The Ohio State University President and Provost’s Leadership Institute; receiving the Ohio Faculty Innovator Award (co-recipient with Peter Anderson, The Ohio State University) in 2011; and receiving the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program (ONR-YIP) grant and the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (NSF-CAREER) grant, both in 2005.

The Christopher I. Byrnes Professorship in Engineering was established in 1998 by university alumnus Jack Bodine, who earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in 1949 and an MBA in 1955 and is a longtime supporter and volunteer leader for McKelvey Engineering. Bodine served as executive vice president and co-owner of Bodine Aluminum Inc., which manufactures sand and permanent mold aluminum castings and is headquartered in St. Louis, until his retirement in 1990. In establishing this professorship, Bodine wished to recognize the contributions of Christopher I. Byrnes, dean of the engineering school from 1991 to 2006 and the Edward H. and Florence G. Skinner Professor Emeritus of Systems Science and Mathematics. At the time of Byrnes’ death in 2010, he was a distinguished visiting professor in optimization and systems theory at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Byrnes joined the Engineering faculty in 1989 as professor of systems and control and chair of the former Department of Systems Science and Control. He became the eighth dean of the engineering school in 1991, succeeding James M. McKelvey. Under Byrnes’ leadership, the school’s endowment increased from $54 million to $185 million. Endowed professorships increased from nine to 37.

During Byrnes’ tenure as dean, he initiated a strategic planning process to position the school as a leader. The school chose four areas of emphasis: computers and communication; biomedical engineering; environmental engineering; and materials science and engineering. From this process, the highly ranked Department of Biomedical Engineering was founded in 1996.

Among Byrnes’ research interests were feedback design in automatic control, nonlinear dynamics and control, and statistical estimation and filtering. His research found application in electrical power systems, signal processing and speech synthesis, among other areas. He held four U.S. patents and received more than $5 million in grants.

Byrnes earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Manhattan College in 1971; a master’s degree and a doctorate, 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.

Byrnes was awarded an honorary doctor of technology degree by Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology in 1998. He was an adjunct professor at the institute from 1986 to 1990 and a visiting professor in 1985, 1991 and 2001. In 2001, Byrnes was installed as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. In addition, he was a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers and received many other awards and prizes for his research.  

Byrnes served on many civic, corporate and professional boards and worked to develop incubators and technology alliances in the St. Louis area. While he was dean, 17 companies were formed to commercialize the ideas of the faculty and staff of the Engineering School.

Click on the topics below for more stories in those areas

Back to News