A farewell and thank you to Lynn Walker

Lauren Smith

Aug 16, 2023

Lynn Walker talking to a graduate student in her laboratory at Carnegie Mellon.

After 26 years, Lynn Walker is leaving Carnegie Mellon University to join the faculty of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science at the University of Minnesota in fall 2023.

Walker joined Carnegie Mellon's Department of Chemical Engineering in 1997 as an assistant professor and then received courtesy appointments in the Departments of Chemistry and Materials Science & Engineering. She has served in many roles within the Department of Chemical Engineering, most recently as Director of Graduate Programs.

Walker's research focuses on understanding and controlling complex, or structured, fluids in engineering applications. Her work involves the use of a wide range of experimental techniques to characterize the nano- through microscale structure of soft materials in non-equilibrium environments. Current efforts focus on developing systematic methods to reformulate complex fluids to incorporate sustainable macromolecular feedstocks.

"Since Lynn and I share research interests, she has naturally become a mentor (and friend) to me," says Aditya Khair, professor of chemical engineering. "Specifically, my research is computational, and Lynn is an experimentalist; I often have ideas for calculations, which while mathematically interesting may not be experimentally feasible. Lynn has improved my research considerably by offering advice in a courteous but firm manner, which I value very much. In fact, my current research portfolio has been strongly influenced (for the better) by advice from Lynn."

Khair, who has co-advised students with Walker, adds that she is an excellent mentor to undergraduate and graduate students. Sumedh Beknalkar ('15) agrees. "The MS program has provided me with life-long mentors in Dr. Khair and Dr. Walker, who continue to guide me in my professional endeavors today. I am truly grateful to have crossed paths with them during my time in the program," he says.

Three adults bending down to look closely at laboratory equipment

Walker has twice received the Kun Li Award for Excellence in Education from the Department of Chemical Engineering. The award is voted on annually by the senior class and presented to the faculty member who most positively influenced their undergraduate experience. In 2016, Walker received CMU's Barbara Lazarus Award, which recognizes one person annually for fostering a welcoming and nurturing environment for graduate students and junior faculty. She was also recognized with the 2015 WIC Mentorship Excellence Award from AIChE.

Walker has been heavily involved in editorial activities within her field, serving on editorial advisory boards for numerous publications and serving as editor-in-chief of Rheologica Acta and associate editor of AIChE Journal.

Walker received her BS from the University of New Hampshire and her Ph.D. from the University of Delaware, both in chemical engineering. She was a National Science Foundation International Postdoctoral Fellow at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. She is a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Society of Rheology, and the American Physical Society.

Early in her career, Walker was one of a small number of female tenure track faculty at Carnegie Mellon, though there was a long history of female faculty in teaching track positions, including Ethyl Cassassa and Annette Jacobson. Walker was the first female faculty to be tenured by the Department of Chemical Engineering.

"This was no small feat, and we are grateful that she paved the way for the success of women who have come after her," says Kathryn Whitehead, professor of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering.