Thomas Christiansen Named Robert Essebe Balmat Jr. Dean’s Professor

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Advancement

Thomas Christiansen, mechanical and materials engineering professor and director of the Center for Heat Treating 

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T. Christiansen

Excellence (CHTE), has been named the Robert Essebe Balmat Jr. Dean’s Professor.

The Robert Essebe Balmat Jr. Dean’s Professor was recently established by Robert E. Balmat III ’68 to support distinguished senior faculty at WPI whose research interest is in physical metallurgy. The professorship honors Balmat’s father, Robert Essebe Balmat Jr., who had always held an interest in metallurgy and encouraged his son to pursue the field. Balmat III ultimately chose to major in chemistry at WPI and is now chief financial officer at Civic Solutions Inc. (CSI). Based in California, CSI specializes in urban planning and community development services to public agencies.  

Christiansen, who joined WPI in July 2023, has more than 20 years of experience in thermochemical surface engineering and heat treatment of metallic materials. His research interests are gas-metal interactions, high-interstitial alloys, (thermochemical) surface engineering and microstructure optimization for improving materials performance—for example via heat treatment. He received his PhD in materials science and surface engineering from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in 2005. From 2008 to 2017 he was senior researcher at DTU and from 2017 to 2023 associate professor and faculty member. From 2022 to 2023, until the time where he joined WPI, he was president of the Danish Metallurgical Society. He has a special interest and a long record of accomplishment within surface hardening and heat treatment of self-passivating materials such as stainless steels and titanium alloys.  

In addition to his academic career, Christiansen has been deeply involved in innovation activities and is the co-founder of two companies: In 2010 he co-founded the company Expanite that offers surface hardening and heat treatment of stainless steels, and in 2014 he co-founded the company TRD Surfaces that offers surface hardening solutions for steels. He has (co-)authored more than 160 articles and book chapters and is the co-inventor on 17 patent applications. He has a keen focus on the synergistic interplay between science and technology and how this best can be exploited to provide solutions to challenges in industry.

“The Robert Essebe Balmat Jr. professorship, and the resources it provides to support teaching and research, were critical to WPI’s success recruiting a world-class metallurgist of Dr. Christiansen’s accomplishment and reputation,” says John McNeill, the Bernard M. Gordon Dean of WPI’s School of Engineering. “We are deeply pleased and proud to have him as director for the Center for Heat Treating Excellence, carrying on CHTE’s role in driving WPI’s leadership in this field.” 

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