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Biography

Dr. Robert K. McMahanDr. McMahan became the 7th President of and Professor of Physics at Kettering University in August 2011. Kettering is a premier engineering, science and business university dedicated to experiential learning and co-operative education, and is a national leader in preparing STEM entrepreneurs and innovators. U.S. News & World Report ranks Kettering among the nation’s finest specialty schools.

Prior to this, Dr. McMahan was the Founding Dean of the Kimmel School and Professor of Engineering at Western Carolina University; the Kimmel School is Western’s College of Engineering and Technology and prior to that, Dr. McMahan was the Senior Advisor to the Governor of North Carolina for Science and Technology, and the Executive Director of the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology. In this role he also acted as a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Commerce, the General Assembly, and the Economic Development Board.

Prior to his work with the Governor, he was a Senior Technology Strategist and Venture Capitalist for In-Q-Tel, a private venture capital organization funded by the CIA, where he was responsible for developing a technology investment strategy for the intelligence community, and then deriving, molding, and structuring individual investments and technologies within the portfolio in response to it. 

Before joining In-Q-Tel, he was Executive Vice President of Engineering and R&D for GretagMacbeth, LLC, where he was responsible for the company’s worldwide research, engineering, and product development activities and for the creation and operation of the company’s Advanced Technology Laboratories in the Research Triangle Park.

He joined GretagMacbeth after its acquisition in 2000 of McMahan Research Laboratories, the advanced technologies company which he founded in Cambridge, MA and later expanded to the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina in 1989.

Dr. McMahan has been involved in the creation of a number of technology startups, and he has co-led equity and LBO capital raises in excess of $50MM.

Dr. McMahan also held the position of Research Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1989-2010. Dr. McMahan received Bachelors’ Degrees in Physics and in the History of Art from Duke University in 1982, a Ph.D. degree in Physics from Dartmouth in 1986, and completed postdoctoral studies at the Harvard University / Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Center for Astrophysics under the mentorship of Professor and Mac Arthur Fellow Margaret Geller.

Dr. McMahan has extensive national and international speaking, consulting, and management experience in organizations and initiatives related to technology and product development, research policy, investment capital, entrepreneurship and innovation-based economic development.

He frequently speaks and consults with national and international organizations interested in innovation policy, investment capital, technology based economic development, university research, and the university’s role in economic development at the invitation of organizations including the National Academies, the US Congress, and the Federal Reserve as well as a number of international governments.

Dr. McMahan participated in research that led to the cosmological discoveries of the “Great Attractor,” as well as the “bubble and void” structure of the universe and the “Great Wall,” the latter of which at the time of discovery was the largest known structure in the universe. These are now foundational elements of modern dark matter theory. He has published over forty papers in scientific and engineering journals, sits on a number of corporate boards and state and national commissions, and holds multiple domestic and international patents.