CORVALLIS - The College of Engineering at Oregon State University has named Belinda King as head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, bringing expertise in a growing research area known as "micro air vehicles."

These flying devices have wingspans of less than 24 inches and are capable of winging through earthquake damaged buildings to search for survivors, locate lost or injured hikers in inhospitable terrain, and attach radio transmitters in challenging conditions.

King, who worked in the OSU Department of Mathematics in the mid-1990s, returns to OSU after spending five years as a professor of mathematics at Virginia Tech. During the past two years, King also served as program manager of dynamics and control at the Mathematics and Space Sciences Directorate of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Her experience at that agency offered her invaluable insight into modern engineering research trends and prompted her to "reboot her career" into engineering, King said. "That job allowed me to transition into having an identity as an engineer and provided me with the experience necessary to return to Oregon State and join the College of Engineering," King said. "The Department of Mechanical Engineering here is primed for change. We have bright young professors with energy and enthusiasm working in exciting research areas. The opportunity to lead the department at this time in its history is energizing."

King's plans include expanding the department's research in materials science, autonomous vehicles, and other areas, and collaborating closely with other departments and colleges at OSU.

"I'm into building interdisciplinary ties, not only across engineering departments, but across colleges and out into industry," King said. "I'm excited to be back at Oregon State. I missed the quality of life, the university and the students here."

Another research area that King wants to develop is "bio-inspired" engineering concepts.

"We can learn a lot by looking at how biological systems do things," she said. "Applying this knowledge to engineering helps us develop new devices that do things very efficiently."

King holds degrees in applied mathematics and mathematical sciences. She is the first woman to head OSU's Department of Mechanical Engineering, and one of only a few women in the U.S. who head engineering departments.

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Belinda King, 541-737-3614