Scholar-entrepreneur tapped to direct Ohio State’s Smart Mobility Program


A technology-based small-business owner with higher education and federal agency experience has been recruited to The Ohio State University to direct its Smart Mobility Program.

Headshot of Atkinson
Chris Atkinson, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering

Chris Atkinson, also a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will lead and collaborate with faculty, students and staff to integrate mobility-related research and education across academic units. The Smart Mobility Program is housed in the Office of Research.

“We have created a position that will think broadly enough to be able to integrate all of the mobility-related research and development activities on the Ohio State campus with the city, the region, the state and nationally to create opportunities for large research programs,” said Giorgio Rizzoni, the Ford Motor Company chair in Electromechanical Systems and director of the Center for Automotive Research.

“Chris, as an outgoing director of a federal agency, is incredibly well connected in Washington, D.C., in the national labs and industry. His prior experience in academe and in the private sector make him the ideal candidate for this role. He will be able to lead initiatives that will bring large research programs to Ohio State and also continue the effort to bring the campus together with a more unified approach to how we understand mobility.”

Atkinson will work to enhance Ohio State’s existing research centers and institutes in the mobility sciences, including the Center for Automotive Research and Transportation Research Center, the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, the Campus Transit Lab and other mobility-related initiatives, and will collaborate with industry partners to increase corporate, foundation, state and federal partnerships.

“There’s a very coherent transportation and mobility focus at Ohio State that permeates from the university to the city to the county to the state,” Atkinson said. “Ohio is very strong in all things automotive from an economy and industry and economic development point of view.

“It’s unique, and I use that word correctly. It is one of a kind.”

The Smart Mobility Program will identify existing and create new initiatives that position Ohio State to address and transform the mobility industry. Atkinson will build business relationships with essential local, state and federal partners as well as strategic national and international industries to understand their future and emerging needs and to identify opportunities to collaborate on mobility-related research-based initiatives.

“My attraction to Ohio State is the fact that it has a very strong underpinning in transportation, a very strong commitment to smart mobility and a very close integration with the city, the county, the state and beyond,” he said.

Atkinson joins Ohio State from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in the U.S. Department of Energy. He served as program director, developing programs to fund high-risk, high-reward innovative energy technologies for generation, storage, distribution and usage. He is the founder of Atkinson LLC, a company specializing in engine control and calibration, fuel efficiency optimization and emissions reduction.

Before he joined the Department of Energy, Atkinson was a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at West Virginia University and director of the Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions.

He holds a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Natal, South Africa, an MS in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University and an ScD in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

by Chris Booker, Ohio State News

Category: Research