Professor Dearn served his engineering apprenticeship with Yale Security Products and spent a further 6 years with Assa Abloy as a research and development engineer specialising in low energy and high-security product development.
He studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, holding a Whitworth Scholarship Award, and graduated in 2005 and was also elected a Whitworth Scholar. He continued his studies at Birmingham reading for a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering working on the theory and design of per machine elements and held a Whitworth Senior Scholarship Award. He obtained his Ph.D. in 2009 and was elected a Whitworth Senior Scholar, the first person to hold a double Whitworth Award since 1944.
Karl leads the Tribology Research Group with research that links mechanical engineering design with tribology and is by its nature multi-disciplinary. The applications of his research have been as diverse as engines that run on air to novel spinal implants, from ball valves to fallopian tubes, and this is reflected in the variety of funding he has received to support it.
Sir Joseph Whitworth’s fundamental goal was to join both the theory and practice of engineering, and this philosophy of contextualisation is embodied throughout all of Karl's teaching and research. He is an enthusiastic communicator teaching Mechanical Design and machine element theory. He was a Birmingham Educational Fellow 2017 – 2018 and short-listed for an Outstanding Teaching Award in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. He is an active STEM ambassador and continues to work towards widening participation in engineering higher education, particularly for those from a non-traditional educational background.
Professor Dearn has devised a series of design-based curriculum enrichment activities, in collaboration with industry, to support his teaching. These include the Aston Martin Dissection exercise, enabling students to contextually engage with form and function, within a complex engineering system. This is a unique student experience. The exercise was identified as an exemplar of “The student experience at Russell Group universities” and featured on the group’s webpage. It has also been included in the University’s TEF submission as an exemplar of industry/academia collaboration.
Karl has created a circular economy from his research, through interactions with industry, and embedding the importance of practical experience in the practice of mechanical engineering. He provides effective student supervision with large proportions of his final year project student’s having won prizes and been published. Many of his projects are industry-linked and provide an enhanced student experience for those that complete them.