University of Central Florida - Dr. Christian Clausen - Professor

As a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Central Florida (UCF), Dr. Christian Clausen directs the research of master’s and doctoral students, has won numerous awards and authored several textbooks. His most unique recognition, however, might be one he received as a boy in Louisiana.

He was the state 4-H muskrat fur judging champion.

That award, and the one he won for Easter lily judging, reflect Clausen’s countryside childhood home of Belle Chasse, a small community with a population of about 500 just outside New Orleans. His pastimes and interests as a child mirrored that bucolic setting: he enjoyed hunting, fishing and trapping, and working on his family’s 20-acre farm overlooking the Mississippi River.

Because the school in Belle Chasse was small – 100 or so students in 1st through 12th grade – Clausen was able to participate in many activities in addition to 4-H. He played football and basketball, ran track, was editor of the school newspaper, played the trumpet, and was a member of several clubs. He also developed a love of chemistry through the gift of a chemistry set from the Sears catalog and the influence of a beloved teacher.

“Mr. Cleveland taught me Algebra 1, Algebra 2, geometry and chemistry,” Clausen explained. “Through the years, he instilled a sense of enthusiasm for scientific investigation that I still feel today. He also encouraged me to go to college, and I was the first person in my family to do so.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Chemistry from Louisiana State University and his doctorate in Physical Inorganic Chemistry from the University of New Orleans, Clausen wanted to find a “new, young university” at which to teach. He discovered Florida Technological University (now UCF) and joined the faculty there in 1969 to help develop the school’s Industrial Chemistry program. He lends his expertise in that field through his volunteer work with SATOP and is currently working on his ninth Request for Technical Assistance.

“Every time we encounter a tough chemical challenge, we know we can count on Chris to help us out,” said Christophe Gilfriche, SATOP Florida Director.

Although much has happened in the intervening years, one thing that hasn’t changed from his days as a boy growing up in rural Louisiana is Clausen’s zest for life. “Not a day that went by that I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and get going to see what the day held,” he said. “I still feel that way today – I’m not tempted to retire. I just enjoy my work too much.”

One-on-One with Dr. Christian Clausen:

What job you would have had if you had not become an engineer and why?
If I had not gone to college, I probably would have made a career of either being in the Coast Guard or a charter fishing boat captain, with the reason being that I love spending time on the ocean.

Do you enjoy any pastimes not related to engineering? If so, what are they?
I hunt, particularly ducks and geese; I fish, mainly for dolphin and tuna; I canoe, I hike, I ski, cook Cajun food and collect hot sauces.

Engineering project you wish you could have worked on:
The Apollo program that sent astronauts to the moon.

Personal accomplishment(s) of which you are most proud:
I have directed the research for some 55 Masters and Ph.D. students, which I consider to be my greatest accomplishment. However, I have received many awards of which I am proud such as: Most Outstanding Teacher Award and Most Outstanding Researcher Award, both at UCF; the 2005 NASA Invention of the Year Award; and The Florida Academy of Sciences Medalist of the Year Award.

What do you enjoy most about being a SATOP volunteer?
The variety of problems that I get to solve.