Colorado State University Names New Mechanical Engineering Department Chair

Note to Reporters: A photo of Professor Sue James is available with the news release at

Colorado State University appointed Sue James, award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineering professor, as the new mechanical engineering department chair. James took over the position July 1, replacing longtime professor Allan Kirkpatrick who is returning to research and teaching in the department.

James helped create the School of Biomedical Engineering, a program that spans four colleges at CSU and unites students and faculty with the biomedical industry. She is also co-director of the Orthopedic Bioengineering Research Laboratory where she studies new biomedical materials for replacing damaged cartilage and joints.

She has spent much of the last decade developing a biologically enhanced, self-lubricating bearing material that allows human joints to survive much longer than current technology allows. The new material makes it possible for adults to receive joint replacement treatment at an earlier age with reduced pain and fewer complications. Through the Colorado State University Research Foundation, the technology has been licensed to BioPoly LLC, an Indiana-based orthopedic company.

Over the past two years, James and her engineering students invented a portable, low-cost infant transport incubator with the hopes of reducing infant mortality rates in the rural United States and in developing countries. The students filed for a patent through the Colorado State University Research Foundation in May 2010.

James has won several outstanding service awards from the university, including the George T. Abell Outstanding Teaching and Service Faculty Award in 2006, the Jack E. Cermak Advising Award in 2006 and the Oliver P. Pennock Distinguished Service Award in 2009.

James was the first female faculty member in CSU’s mechanical engineering department when she was hired in 1994. She is now the first female mechanical engineering department chair.

James has also been recognized for her advancement and support of diversity in the engineering department through the Women and Minorities in Engineering Program, which encourages young people, particularly girls, to take an interest in engineering. She makes lip balms and lotions with the children to show them engineering’s real-world applications.

Her courses have included an introduction to engineering materials, structure and function of biomaterials, material issues in mechanical design and a biomedical clinical practicum.