Mechanical Engineering

Contact Information

Washburn Shops, 235
Phone: +1-508-831-5627

Christopher A. Brown

Chris Brown has been on the WPI faculty since 1989. In 1983 he completed his doctoral work on machining at the University of Vermont, where he also worked in orthopaedics and studied ski injuries.

As an undergraduate, he was Vermont’s only walk-on All-American skier. He raced and coached there during the longest regular season undefeated streak in NCAA history and is a member of UVM’s athletic hall of fame. He spent four years in the Materials Department at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology studying machined surfaces and then two years as the senior research engineer working on product and process development at Atlas Copco's European research center.

Professor Brown has published over a hundred articles on design, surfaces and surface metrology and has patents on a fractal method for characterizing surface textures and for friction testing. He also develops software for topographical analysis. He teaches courses that include Surface Metrology, the Technology of Alpine Skiing and Axiomatic Design. Brown thinks teaching at WPI is fun because of the raw talent. He feels that WPI has many great students; many of them don’t even know how good they are. He has fun helping them discover what they can do.

Professor Brown likes that work on surface metrology combines the beauty of fractals with the challenges of characterizing chaos using experimental mathematics. He likes surface metrology because surfaces cover everything – working with anthropologists studying marks on teeth, archaeologists to study wear on stone tools, and art conservationists to understand the surfaces of photographic paper and other artistic works.

Professor Brown likes axiomatic design because design is common to all engineering disciplines. Scientists look at things as they are and ask “why?” Engineers dream of things that never were and ask “why not?” and that process is design. Axiomatic design is a functional based systematic approach to design that reduces development time and improves results.

The work Brown does on skiing and snowboarding helps to reduce injuries and improve performance. This is his technical recreation. It is a fun area for MQPs and IQPs because students are familiar with it and bring lots of their own experience to it. There are opportunities to apply axiomatic design to ski and snowboard equipment. Several prototype bindings have been the product of MQPs, which have been presented at international meetings in the US and Europe.

Research Interests

  • Surface Metrology
  • Axiomatic Design
  • Sports Engineering
  • Machining
  • Abrasive Processes


  • BA University of Vermont 1975
  • MS University of Vermont 1979
  • PhD University of Vermont 1983

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