1964-2017 AMES/MAE Department Chairs

MAE Alumni Recollections

MAE Chair Recollections

S. S. PENNER (06-09-95)

Beginning in January of 1962, I served as Director of the Engineering and ResearchDivision at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) in Washington, D. C., while on leave of absence from my position as Professor of Jet Propulsion at the California Institute of Technology.  Soon after my arrival at IDA, I was asked by Keith Brueckner if I would be interested in starting an engineering department at UCSD.  I visited UCSD during the Fall of 1962 and talked at length with the Acting Chancellor H. F. York and also with Roger Revelle.  Roger Revelle's dream of building a State University with emphasis on distinguished graduate work had immediate appeal for me because it was consonant with what I had become familiar at the California Institute of Technology and accepted as the most desirable type of training for the professional needs and opportunities of PhD graduates at the height of the cold war when Defense Research and Engineering was dominated by Defense Secretary McNamara's ''whizz kids", who were my immediate customers for the research done at IDA. It was understood and agreed by all of the administrators at UCSD that the new department that I would develop was to be an updated conglomerate like the Division of Engineering at Caltech, without departmental boundaries, to reflect the interdisciplinary needs of advanced engineering R&D.

With the license to include not only fluid and solid mechanics but also systems and control engineering, structures, ocean engineering, chemical engineering, bioengineering, materials science, and aerospace engineering within the scope of the new department for which I had suggested the name  AMES (for Aeronautical (soon changed to Aerospace) and Mechanical Engineering Sciences), I accepted the invitation to come to UCSD late in 1962 and proceeded to select appropriate faculty colleagues for early appointments.  The initial faculty roster was dominated by Caltech faculty members and graduates, including J. W. Miles (who was then at UCLA) in applied mathematics and fluid mechanics, my colleague Y. C. Fung who came with B. Zweifach and the intriguing proposal to develop bioengineering as a new interdisciplinary area of applied science and engineering, two of my own former Caltech graduate students who were working with me at IDA (D.B.Olfe who was an expert in radiant heat transfer and fluid mechanics  and F. A. Williams who was then as now occupied on research leading to improved understanding of fundamental flame processes as well as controlling large-scale fires), and  Caltech graduates G. A. Hegemier in structures  and C.W. Van Atta in fluid mechanics. Solid mechanics was initiated by W. Nachbar, who was then at Lockheed and with whom I had a longstanding relation as a consultant; he later played an important role in bringing to UCSD two eminent theoreticians working in applied mechanics, namely, W. Prager and E. Reissner*  (UCSD's first and second members, respectively, of the National Academy of Engineering).  Among other early appointees were P. A. Libby in fluid mechanics (whom I knew as a close associate of my distinguished friend A. Ferri at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute), A. Schneider from MIT's Lincoln Laboratory who came with strong endorsement by C. Draper for a position in systems engineering (an important area of teaching and research to which R. E. Roberson and H. W. Sorenson from UCLA were added a few years later), D. R. Miller who had been an especially promising graduate student of another personal friend (J. B. Fenn at Princeton University)  and who worked in rarefied gasdynamics,  C. H. Gibson from Stanford University who was an early representative of chemical engineering at UCSD,  S. Nemat-Nasser who joined UCSD as the first entry with research emphasis at the interface between  materials science  and solid mechanics, S. C. Lin from the Cornell University School of Aerospace Engineering via the AVCO Corporation who had already been recognized for his pioneering achievements in the design and construction of high-power excimer lasers and whose students later helped spawn a number of private and public high-tech companies, S. Rand in theoretical fluid physics, and H. Bradner who was closely associated with experimental programs of W. Munk and provided, together with Miles and Gibson, an early and effective link with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; to this group, former Caltech Professor A. T. Ellis was added in 1967.  Some other early appointees (e. g., R. Pawula in systems engineering)  did not choose to make their careers at UCSD.  It is noteworthy that most of these early appointees have continued to play a vital role not only in the development and growth of the AMES Department but also in the evolution of the local campus to national prominence.  Nearly all remain active to this day.

The achievements of engineers and applied scientists are recognized not only by national and international awards, of which the original AMES faculty received many, but also by election to the NAE (National Academy of Engineering), NAS (National Academy of Sciences), AAAS (American Academy of Arts and Sciences), IOM (Institute of Medicine), IAA (International Academy of Astronautics), and others.  Of the original first 23 faculty appointees, 1 became a member of NAE, NAS, AAAS, and IAA; 1 is a member of NAE, NAS and IOM; 2 are members of NAE, AAAS and IAA; 1 was elected to NAS and AAAS and 1 to NAE.  Future recognitions of this type are anticipated to occur for other members of the original AMES faculty.

AMES began official operation at UCSD with my arrival in March of 1964, which was followed within a few months by about ten others of the initial group of faculty members.  At the beginning, primary extramural research support for many of the faculty members in AMES was derived from my $4.5 million dollar per year contract from the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) for supporting research on fundamental topics relating to defense research and engineering.   It should be noted that this single contract is equivalent to about $20 million in 1995 dollars and, although it was our largest initial grant, it was by no means the only research support for the new department of AMES.  Research in this area was a natural extension of activities at IDA, where I had been responsible for increasing the size of my division from 20 senior professionals to well over 70.

The initial philosophy for operation of the AMES Department was dominated by the view that the Department consisted of a group of distinguished experts in many disciplines who would cooperate on interdisciplinary studies as appropriate and desirable while developing their own areas of expertise.  This was the proper choice for the times and contributed to the rapid growth and stature of AMES, which was a recognized leading department of engineering and applied science by the end of my term in office as department chairman in 1968.  It would be wrong to infer from the previous statements that research in AMES was initially concentrated on defense applications.  While the ARPA program was responsible for financial support, there was never any classified research pursued within the department and, in keeping with the spirit of the mid-sixties, early AMES faculty members were provided with generous opportunities to develop their own preferred research agendas while it was left to me as the program director to seek defensible connections with long-range programmatic ARPA goals for what was actually done.

What was done in 1963-64 would be inappropriate in the period after the end of the cold war, except for hiring young people of exceptional talent and urging them to develop their own preferred research activities with a clear view of the societal needs into which the programs must fit.  From my present perspective and in view of my extensive industrial experience not only as a technical consultant but also as a director of major corporations and co-founder and part owner of high-tech companies, I believe that the present times demand completely different complementary training to what was appropriate in the early years of AMES.  There should now be emphasis on practical applications outside the defense areas, including manufacturing technologies, economics, cost analyses, marketing, environmental issues--in short, training and research aimed at sustainable societal development.  On the other hand, what has not changed but rather become more urgent is the early emphasis we placed in AMES on interdisciplinary cooperation, as well as close connection with industrial concerns.  It is appropriate to note that the early participants in AMES were very well integrated into the commercial establishments of the times.

It had become apparent as early as 1967 that Roger Revelle's conception of how to build the greatest graduate university in the world would prove to be unworkable within the UC system.  Insofar as AMES was concerned, University allocation of FTEs decreased to a trickle, as may be verified from a 1974 report entitled the "Department of Applied Mechanics (the name was changed during the tenure of the second-chairman, J.W. Miles) and Engineering Sciences from 1964 to 1974," which shows that during the first 6 years following my tenure as chairman only a single permanent FTE faculty member was added.  Furthermore, the campus disturbances during 1969 - 70, associated with protests over the war in Vietnam, inevitably led to a decline of the very generous extramural support from governmental agencies with which we began. Most important of all, it became clear as early as 1967 that the idea of a multidisciplinary graduate engineering department would have to be abandoned-and that AMES would ultimately have to admit large numbers of undergraduate students in order to justify its existence within the UC system according to an FTE-allocation formula for which I was responsible during my tenure as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (1968 to 69). The primary cooperative research function shifted to multidisciplinary research institutes such as IPAPS (the Institute for Pure and Applied Physical Sciences, of which I served as director from 1968 to 1971). Proper education and placement of undergraduate engineers is facilitated by disciplinary labels and approved engineering curricula, which were largely ignored by the early AMES Department but become a necessity for all but the most prestigious research enterprises such as the Division of Engineering at Caltech. The needed disciplinary differentiations were begun in AMES  by  the fourth Department Chairman P.A. Libby (1973 to 76), effectively implemented during the later tenures of D.R. Miller (1976 to 1980 and 1989 to 1992) and D.B. Olfe 1985 to 1989), and continue to this day.

*Reissner's official appointment date was 07-01-69 but negotiations for his joining the UCSD faculty were initiated during 1967 during his first visit to UCSD.

Paul A. Libby

All my university education was at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn; my BS degree was obtained in 1942 and my PhD in 1948. In the interim between these dates I served in the United States Navy principally in the Structures Branch of the Bureau of Aeronautics in Washington. I was discharged from the Navy as a Lieutenant (JG) and returned to PIB to finish my doctoral work. Upon graduation I was appointed to the PIB faculty and in due course advanced to professor.

Sometime in the 1950's Antonio Ferri, an international known aerodynamist, joined the PIB faculty; I served as his assistant for ten years. In that period through my association with Professor Ferri I met many leaders in the aeronautical world including Professor T. von Karman and importantly in the present context Professor S.S. Penner.

Thus when Professor Penner was setting up a new department in La Jolla, my name came up for consideration and apparently was favorably noted. Thus Professor Penner offered me a faculty position in his new department. The attractions of participating in the start of a new university and of La Jolla were great and so in 1964 we moved west. I was one of the seven or eight original faculty in the Department of Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering Sciences (AMES). In addition to Professor Penner, Professors Williams, Olfe and Lin were members of the original faculty who remained in the department for many years.

In view of later developments I believe it is important to note that engineering at UCSD was envisaged by Professor Penner and by Professor Keith Brueckner, a distinguished physicist, who was centrally important in faculty recruitment, to be based on engineering science. This vision was reinforced by the appointment of Professor Henry Booker as the founding chair of the second engineering department, for electrical engineering. It was named the Department of Applied Physics and Information Sciences. Further in this regard I remember distinctly Professor Penner saying, "We're going to do engineering education correctly" This emphasis on engineering science was maintained  for many years; at one time our department had on its faculty, S.S. Penner, Williams Prager, Eric Reisner and John Miles, all internationally known engineering scientists and educators.

The sequence of chairs of the department in the early days was Penner, Miles and Reisner.  I followed Reisner and was Chair for three years starting in 1972. In the early days of the department our undergraduate students received BA degrees. When I became Chair, I had the idea that a degree program leading to a BS degree, consistent with the engineering science emphasis established early AND compatible with the college system on campus. More specifically I had in mind a program similar to the Boelter-Tribus program operative at the time at UCLA. In Boelter-Tribus the first three years of the engineering curriculum was essentially the same for all students; specialization was largely limited to the senior year. I thought this philosophy was in keeping with the collegiate system at UCSD and yet would result in our graduates receiving a BS degree. In an effort to implement this idea I wrote to the chairs of the other engineering departments (There were three or four at the time) putting forth this proposal. Of course as I should have expected their response was an enthusiastic support for programs leading to BS degrees but the Tribus-Boelter program was a non-starter; specialized engineering courses had to start in the freshman year!

Engineering at UCSD thus developed along absolutely conventional lines. New faculty members and particularly new Deans of Engineering had no knowledge of or interest in the early days. The focus on engineering science has been entirely lost. As a consequence our department and presumably the other departments in the Jacobs School of Engineering resemble many other such departments in the United States. It may be that at a big state institution such as the University of California it is not possible to maintain a distinct program of engineering education but we shall never know.


Dave Miller

I am asked to provide a brief account of my personal historical perspective on the development of AMES into MAE at UCSD. I assume that relevant facts (dates, numbers, names, etc.)  are available elsewhere so I will just point out the nature of various major events which come into  mind. Some facts are likely a bit incorrect but I trust my memory gets the gist of things right. I will not attempt to discuss the many outstanding colleagues recruited to AMES and MAE, as this would go on and on and I would surely forget to mention someone and/or their contributions to our research and various programs. Frankly, the numbers (awards, degrees, research dollars and impact, etc.) speak for themselves.

I grew up in Long Beach, California, went to UC Berkeley in 1958 and graduated with a BS in chemical engineering. I then went to Princeton for graduate studies in chemical engineering. My research under the direction of Ron Andres was in the area of physical chemistry – involving gas dynamics and molecular beam research in the laboratory of John Fenn (who later won the Noble Prize in chemistry).  At UCSD, AMES, under the chairmanship of Sol Penner, was established in 1964 top down by recruiting established senior faculty in a breadth of areas and in distinctive programs; e.g. Bert Fung was recruited by from CIT to start up a new field of Bioengineering. I was recruited and arrived as the 2nd or 3rd assistant professor in January 1966, directly from a PhD my chemical engineering at Princeton. I had other offers in more established academic institutions but John Fenn, who knew Sol Penner well encouraged me to come to UCSD because he was impressed with the quality and broad engineering science nature of the developing new program at UCSD - AMES was not at all similar to a chemical engineering program – more of an aerospace science department, strong in mechanics and engineering physics.  John Galbraith was Chancellor and my initial 9-month total salary was $9600. At that time AMES stood for Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, changed to Applied Mechanics and Engineering Sciences during the later stages of the Vietnam War. AMES was a target of student anti-war activists and I recall that when they “occupied” Urey Hall very late one night, assuming no one would be there, they had to confront Carl Gibson – who I believe they found to be engaging and released without harm. The degree was a BA in Applied Mechanics embedded in the College liberal arts programs – at that time only Revelle and Muir Colleges existed. The AMES ratio of G/UG students was nearly 4:1 and UG courses were only taught by tenured senior faculty. I taught my first UG class (about 20 students) 4 years later when I was being considered for tenure, because the Regents had just past a requirement that no one could be tenured without having taught an UG course. Everyone had rather large graduate groups and research funding from various agencies (DOD, NSF) during the post- sputnik era was not difficult to get; and NSF had a terrific graduate fellowship program. The UG program was strongly theoretical, almost an MS level program at the BS level, with little laboratory and no design courses. The UG students were terrific and most of them went on for MS and PhD degrees elsewhere. Most graduate students went into academia during that period when many universities were expanding in engineering and science.

Post-Vietnam into the 1970s things began to change. Funding from DOD agencies diminished and campus budgets under Governors Reagan and Brown suffered seriously – no salary raises for several years.  As I recall, AMES had about 26 faculty in 1969 and about 25 in 1979.  Our total allocation of TA positions was typically < 1 because, although we taught more courses than many larger departments, enrollment in an UG course was low (~25).  During this period I believe AMES was given only one campus senior FTE to initiate a new program in chemical engineering. Stan Middleman was recruited to develop and lead this program in 1979. One substantial change was that engineering’s proposal to grant a BS rather than a BA undergraduate degree was approved; and quickly followed by other science departments.

Richard Atkinson became Chancellor in 1980, Deukmejian became governor in 1982, the state budget improved, Harold Ticho replaced John Miles as SVCAA in 1983, and the campus was able to allocate growth FTE. Undergraduate engineering enrollments increased rapidly during the 80s and it became clear that a majority of our UGs would go directly into industry where a non-accredited BS in Engineering Science would not serve them well. I became AMES chair in 1981. I recall a PRC meeting when TA allocations came up and the proposed model allocated AMES a fraction of one TA. SVCAA Ticho asked how can it be that a department like AMES could teach more than 75 courses and not receive one TA because of some algorithm?!  He immediately augmented the TA funding and gave a couple of TAs to AMES - no one objected. We also applied for ABET accreditation for our UG degrees. We were emphatically rejected the first time around because we were very deficient in laboratory and design courses, and one or two topical courses. I should add that several faculty felt our engineering science degree program was better than an ABET structured program, and if it were not in the best interest of the UG student, we may not have pursued accreditation. However, we hired an ABET consultant, altered the curriculum, and were awarded partial 3 year accreditation about two years later.

Dick Atkinson had created the engineering directorate at NSF just before he came to UCSD and felt strongly that for UCSD to be a prominent public university then engineering at UCSD needed to be stronger with more stature and visibility, especially to the industrial community and to students. I was asked to chair a committee in 1981 to consider establishing a School of Engineering with a Dean as its head. Paul Libby joined me on that committee which was broad based with faculty colleagues form several disciplines. A major issue was establishing such a professional School within the College system, and, of course, why engineering required such special consideration. In the UC system Schools control their admissions and degree requirements, while at UCSD these are under the purview of the Colleges. The label was crucial and the outcome was a compromise, to establish a Division of Engineering with a Dean, with explicit understanding that the “Division” had no more rights than Departments in other disciplines. Lea Rudee, who was founding Provost of Warren College, became the initial Dean of the new Division in 1982. Interestingly, the other disciplines soon followed and formed Divisions and appointed Deans to head them. Interactions with industry did improve with a Dean.  Very soon after his appointment, Dean Rudee worked with the faculty, departments, industrial colleagues, and eventually the governor’s office, in a competition to bring an industry national consortium sponsored Research Center to campus; I believe it was in semi-conductor fabrication. We were one of two national finalists but lost out (to either Texas or Arizona). The effort did make our governor aware that industry places a high value on the state’s support for higher education. Perhaps coincidentally, Governor Deukmejian increased budgets to UC dramatically after this. Rudee was then successful in working with Jim Lemke to establish an industry supported center to study magnetic recording (CMRR) in 1983, the first such Center on the general campus. The industrial consortium support included senior faculty chairs and AMES was able to recruit Frank Talke to one of these chairs. Other Centers have followed under the leadership of Deans working with faculty. I add that Dean Rudee worked to establish diversity amongst the faculty and students. I particularly recall that he worked with Glenda Davis to establish the Minority Engineering Program (MEP) and Society of Women Engineers (SWE) which generated a culture that has persisted and evolved.  

The 1980s were good times. We were finally able to grow the faculty and make distinguished appointments at the senior and junior levels in several areas. EBUI, the 1st new major academic building on campus in 20 years, opened in 1986 and then EBUII in 1994, which permitted AMES to complete the move from Urey Hall.  I served as AMES chair for the second time from 1989 – 92. In 1993 the Division became the School of Engineering (still with the local constraint that the school could not control admissions or grant degrees) ; curiously this happened because the title “Division” had a UC wide connotation which made it inappropriate for a campus to use. There was a state budget crisis in the early 1990s which again slowed growth. Dean Rudee stepped down after 12 years and Robert Conn became Dean in 1994 – by that time we had about 40 faculty in AMES. Atkinson left to become UC president and Robert Dynes became Chancellor in 1995. Dean Conn appointed me as Associate Dean in 1994, and I served with him until 1997, when I became campus wide Associate VC under SVCAA Marsha Chandler.

Dean Conn had a strong and important impact on the direction and growth of the School during his nine year tenure.  His immediate important decision in 1994 was to support and approve the formation of the Bio-engineering department. The departmental proposal had been under campus review for nearly two years. A major concern was the small critical mass of ladder rank faculty, about seven at the time. This issue was overcome by the outstanding quality and reputation of the faculty involved, and Conn’s assurance (with support from the Powell foundation) that they would be allocated fte to grow to about 15. Five years later Dean Conn supported the formation of the Structural Engineering department and with it the name change from AMES to MAE. I recall that the one issue for Conn was whether it should have been Civil Engineering or Structural Engineering ( a visibility and accreditation issue) , but again his decision was based on the quality and distinction of our faculty and their program.

Conn worked with President Atkinson and OP to develop and fund a new state-wide Engineering Initiative which ultimately allocated 40 “net new” FTE to UCSD in 1998-99 to be used to support growth in engineering. The reality of “net new” was contentious on campus and many of the Engineering Initiative FTE did appropriately go to support other departments (“all boats rise”), recognizing that engineering students impact many other units on campus. Coupled with the growth in FTE was growth in development fund raising and research funding, highlighted by the extraordinary gift by Irwin Jacobs. Fittingly the School was named the Irwin and Joan Jacobs School of Engineering in 1997 (JSOE). The Bioengineering building opened in 2002.  Private and industrial funding was crucial to not only matching of large proposals but for faculty recruitment because start-up costs had begun to ramp up and the Engineering Initiative FTE came with no extra start-up funds. Dean Conn’s fund raising abilities also played a large role in UCSD’s ability to win state support for CALIT2, which required a 2:1 match. The CALIT2 building opened in 2005. When Dean Conn stepped down in 2003, JSOE ranked in the top 10 of public engineering schools and the combined faculty in MAE, Bio-Eng, and Structural Engineering had grown to more than 100 faculty.

Dean Frieder Seible was appointed Dean following Conn and continued strong leadership and growth of the JSOE, including the formation of the Nano- Engineering department in 2007, which completed the breakup of the original AMES department. This new department also provided a permanent home to the chemical engineering program, where it has grown rapidly in faculty and students. Similar growth and bifurcation has occurred in the formation of ECE and CSE. Dean Seible stepped down in 2013 and our current Dean Pisano joined JSOE in 2014.

Looking back, the strength of our academics and research programs is due to the quality of faculty, the culture of interdisciplinary scholarship, and the efforts to assure diversity (which I feel all Deans gave serious attention to despite the frustratingly slow rate of growth at the faculty levels). I continue to appreciate how porous we have been able to maintain our organizational structures despite the formation of new units. The faculty have adapted to shifting research areas and funding sources by redefining their “boundary conditions” and strengthening  collaborations across traditional disciplines – it is  simply is not that way at most other traditional schools of engineering.  I am not aware of a better or more comprehensive AMES/MAE department anywhere.

Frank E. Talke
Chair from 1/1/1993 to 6/30/1995

Being department chair of the AMES department (now MAE department) was one of the high points in my academic career which began in UC Berkeley and previous to that in Germany. I always had academia at the forefront of my thoughts, but after finishing my PhD in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley in 1968, I worked at the IBM Research and Development Laboratories in San Jose, CA, from 1969 to 1986. The seventies and eighties were an exciting time for the development of computers, data storage devices such as disk and tape drives, as well as printers and other computer peripheral equipment. My work at IBM in those years was related to the development of the head disk interface in hard disk drives, the improvement of storage density in disk and tape drives, and the investigation of drop on demand inkjet technology for application in printing.

In the seventies, the maximum storage density in hard disk drives was on the order of Mbits/inch2, and the capacity of large disk drives was less than 100Mbytes. The demand for “random access” storage was skyrocketing, and many new disk drive companies were formed in the US and Japan. For many years in the seventies and eighties, the increase in storage density of disk drives, year after year, was on the order of thirty or forty percent, and leaders in the US computer industry, such as Art Anderson and Jim Lemke, were wondering where new and well-trained engineers for the fast developing computer industry would come from. They suggested to a number of universities the formation of a Center for Magnetic Recording Research, which was formed in 1984 at UCSD.

I was asked in 1985 to consider leaving IBM and joining UCSD in the newly formed Center for Magnetic Recording. I accepted a position as endowed chair in the Center for Magnetic Recording Research in 1986, and became a member of the AMES Department, the Department of “Applied Mechanics and Engineering Science” (AMES). At the time of my joining the AMES department, the department consisted of more than 45 faculty members, in areas of mechanics, fluid mechanics, systems, materials and bioengineering. The department was a very broad department, with emphasis in engineering sciences. UCSD had a student population in 1984 of less than 14,000 students. My office was located in the CMRR building, which at that time was the only building in this area of the campus. Within a few years, EBUI was build, then EBUII, then the bioengineering building and much later Cal IT two and others. In 1987, a number of AMES faculty members moved from Urey Hall to EBUI, and the Powell Structural Engineering Building became a center of research in Structural engineering.

I was asked to serve as department chair of the AMES Department in 1992. Since I had planned to be on sabbatical in the fall of 1992, the department chair, Dave Miller, continued his term as department chair until the end of 1992, and I formally took over as chair in January of 1993. At that time, the office of the chair and the AMES department was located in EBUI, on the fourth floor, in very crowded quarters. The construction of EBUII was under way, and in late 1993 the department moved from EBUI to EBUII.

In 1993, the internet was in its early stages. Notices for faculty or committee meetings, as well as seminar announcements, had to be typed up and were mailed with internal campus mail. I remember that in one of the first department meetings after becoming chair, the question was discussed whether department meetings should be announced using the new e-mail facilities available rather than sending out meeting announcements by hard mail copies! It is amazing how fast technology has taken over our life and has totally changed our working habits.

The early nineties were a time of great expansion at UCSD and in the AMES department. New faculty were hired in the areas of bioengineering, with tissue engineering in the forefront of research, and new and additional faculty members were hired in structural engineering, fluid mechanics and mechanics. In many ways one can describe this time as the “golden age” in engineering. Research funding was easily available, and I remember that it was no problem getting commitments from industry to support research in many areas of technology, especially computer technology.

In those years the number of undergraduate and graduate students in the AMES department grew rapidly. For the first time, a PhD degree could be obtained in mechanical engineering, in addition to a degree in engineering science. The dean’s office in those years was much smaller than today, consisting of perhaps seven or eight people.

The AMES department grew very rapidly in the early nineties, and the department was split into Bioengineering and AMES in 1994. The separation of the AMES department into two separate departments was seen by many faculty members as the best way to create a new field of research, bioengineering. The growth of the bioengineering department in the last decades has proven that this split was a wise decision made by the faculty. In those years the AMES department added talents in structural engineering, materials science, chemical engineering, mechanics and fluid mechanics, including Prof. Sutanu Sarkar and Prof. Vitali Nesterenko, both future chairs of the department. Soon the department grew in size and again became a big and diverse department with great strength in engineering sciences. An additional split of the AMES department into Structural engineering and AMES was in the works, and with a new dean of engineering, the department added faculty in the area of control.

At the end of my tenure as department chair, a new name was discussed for the department, namely Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The next chair, Professor Forman Williams, oversaw the change of the name of the department from AMES to MAE, and the continuation of tremendous growth of the department.

Forman Williams

The era in which I grew up was a fortunate one for me in that the Ivy League universities were moving away from serving only the sons of their rich, white alumni and, although they had not yet even thought of admitting women or minorities, they were moving towards opening their doors to sons of working-class families.  That enabled me to attend Princeton University, 20 miles south from my home, where a graduate course on combustion, which, as an undergraduate, I took with a half dozen other students (largely currently retired professors), completely shaped my career.  The professor in that course, Martin Summerfield, recommended that I pursue a PhD at Caltech with Sol Penner, who, with Theodore von Kármán, had co-authored the principle paper that we had studied in the course, the paper in which I had decided that those differential conservation equations of combustion contained enough information to occupy me for the rest of my life (as they have).  It was my relationship with Sol Penner that ultimately resulted in my joining the UCSD faculty, at the time that he set up the first engineering department on this campus.

Caltech was a remarkable environment in the late 1950’s, a place that Richard Feynman had chosen not to leave (despite having been offered an excellent position elsewhere), because of the close intellectual interactions on that small campus.  Not only was I fortunate enough to be able to present my PhD thesis work to von Kármán (arranged by Penner at the home of the 80+ year-old scientist), who did not follow the mathematics but nevertheless clearly understood its significance and identified exactly what future research on the topic was needed; but also I was able to take a graduate course in quantum electrodynamics from Feynman in the physics department, which demonstrated his notable teaching abilities and unsurpassed understanding of field theory.  Largely as the result of that graduate course, Feynman served on my PhD thesis committee, and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that he asked me the only question that I was unable to answer (a simple one in thermodynamics, but requiring insight that eluded me), even though, fortunately, the committee still agreed to pass me.        

Having taught at Harvard after my PhD, I was the fourth AMES faculty member to arrive at UCSD.  I came in April of 1964, to join Sol Penner, Dan Olfe, and Si Rand, all three having arrived earlier that year.  It was an exciting time, with plenty of things to do in establishing a department.  We started with fluid mechanics, and added solid mechanics, then controls.  My specialty, combustion, was then, and still is, centered in fluid mechanics.  I recall teaching our undergraduate mathematics sequence, AMES 105, then with three parts, A, B, and C, roughly covering ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations, and complex variables.  I sometimes gave the last class on the beach at Scripps, as a diversion, which was enjoyable.  Our undergraduates who went on to graduate school often remarked that they were appreciably better prepared in mathematics than most of the other engineering graduate students whom they met.  Our graduate mathematics sequence, AMES 294 A, B, and C, also was strong, and great fun to teach.  My class sizes back then were just 5 or 6, and many of the students who took that sequence (Rick Salmon, Herbert Huppert, etc.) went on to professorships at leading institutions.   

After returning here from Princeton (where I had gone to accept their Goddard Chair in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, but found that I did not want to have to deal with the New Jersey winters any more), it eventually became my turn to serve as Department Chair of AMES.  I do not recall the exact dates, but I am sure they are available in the records.  I believe that I survived 4 years in that position, which, for a number of reasons (mostly related to my own preferences and personality), I found that I really did not enjoy.  That was, however, an important period for Engineering at UCSD.  The School of Engineering was established, and Bob Conn became the Dean of Engineering.  AMES had previously split off the very successful Bioengineering Department, and, while I was Chair, it continued to grow, and it divided into MAE and the Department of Structural Engineering.  I thus believe that probably I can properly say that I was the last Department Chair of AMES, which, come to think of it, may not be a very prestigious honor.  

The AMES acronym was not an ordinary one, and over the years it had stood for a number of different things, such as Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Science, and Applied Mechanic and Engineering Sciences, although most of my European friends preferred to add a D for Department in front of it, so that they could call it DAMES, quite politically incorrect nowadays.  When I was AMES Chair, there was some sentiment within the department for retaining the acronym, but our strong Dean of Engineering insisted on a clean split with different names, and so the acronym disappeared, and we now have MAE, which really is not an acronym, since no one calls it “may”.  

I appointed Frider Seible and Juan Lasheras to head up the split into two departments, with Frider championing Structures and Juan MAE.  Since departments of MAE were prevalent through the country, Juan’s choice of a department name was comparatively easy, but Frider had some trouble convincing everyone that we should establish what I think was the first Department of Structural Engineering in the country.  It helped him to win when he pointed out that the name was not unusual in Europe.   I must say that seeing Juan and Frider negotiate for resources during the split made quite an impression on me, and it strengthened and solidified my respect for both of them.  At times I thought they were coming to blows, but, after all, they turned out to be among the best of friends.  That was an early demonstration of their excellent administrative abilities, which they both have gone on to demonstrate clearly since that time.

Practices within the university when I first arrived here were different than they are now, in certain ways.  Excellence in research was highly respected, as it still is, but, way back then, considerations of external funding were practically taboo in faculty evaluations, which were to be based solely on quality.  That may have reflected the virtual absence of any external funding in the humanities, along with the relative ease of acquiring funding in engineering; funding success was not a good indication of quality, which, perhaps in some respects, is less true today.  Another difference involved interactions with retired faculty members.  While retired faculty did not vote, they still were invited to attend faculty meetings, since it was felt that their experience and knowledge could provide helpful perspectives in some situations.  Even though changes evolve increasingly rapidly nowadays, comments from older generations still might prove useful.

I think that, also, we all can see that, as the School of Engineering has evolved, it has tended to move away from basic analytical Engineering Science and more towards computer-aided Engineering Practice in new areas.  This makes good sense, since Engineering is evolving so rapidly, in so many new directions.  It is important to keep pace with these new advances and, moreover, to lead them.  And the mathematical methods of the past hardly seem necessary for engineers in such activities, since computational power is now so well developed that there are programs out there that will calculate whatever we want calculated.  My feeling, however, is that we may well be going too far in that direction.

The decline in interest in analytical methods of mathematics may be associated with the changing mind-set of the younger generations.  Computers undoubtedly have been a great boon to humankind in many different ways.  But there is too much of an increasing tendency to believe that if the answer came from a computer simulation then it must be right, and if it was not verified by computer simulation then it must be wrong.  This viewpoint, I believe, could not be farther from the truth.  We all know that numerical results from computations have no more reality than the equations and algorithms on which they are based.  And even today, it is not at all difficult to derive a correct analytical result that even the most powerful array of computers cannot derive.   The best of the current approaches make use of analytical mathematical methods along with the computations, being well grounded in basics.

At a perhaps frighteningly more fundamental level, though, is the question of the evolution of the nature of human understanding.  Computational results tend to be elaborate, exposing many different phenomena, often in a florid, pictorial manner.  Are we going to require elaborate complexity of that type to feel that we have achieved an understanding?  Or is society to remain interested in penetrating to the single most important phenomenon, pealing away physics of lesser importance, as analytical methods tend to enable us to do?  At present, it seems unclear whether we are in the midst of a revolution in which “understanding” precludes this type of penetration to a central and possibly dominant core.  It is for these reasons that today’s trends are viewed by some as possibly misdirected.