Vijay K. Dhir, dean of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been elected into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the highest professional honor accorded to an American engineer.

By M. Abraham

Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice, or education. Established in 1964, the NAE shares responsibility with the National Academy of Sciences to advise the federal government on questions of policy in science and technology.

Honored for his work on boiling heat transfer and nuclear reactor thermal hydraulics and safety, Dhir is among 76 new members and nine foreign associates elected to NAE membership, which brings the total U.S. membership to 2,216 and the number of foreign associates to 186.

“I am humbled and thrilled to be included in such incredible company,” Dhir said. “But I feel the most immediate importance of my election into the NAE is the recognition it brings to UCLA Engineering and the School’s truly outstanding faculty, students, and programs.”

Dhir was named dean of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science in March 2003. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools among public universities nationwide, the School is home to six multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers in space exploration, wireless sensor systems, nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing, and nanoelectronics, all funded by federal and private agencies. With Dhir’s election, UCLA Engineering now has 22 NAE faculty members.

Dhir has been a faculty member at UCLA since 1974, and leads the Boiling Heat Transfer Lab, which conducts pioneering work in fundamental and applied research in phase change heat transfer.A central concern of Dhir’s program has been to understand boiling – one of the most complex processes providing an efficient means of cooling. Dhir has worked to design cooling systems for spacecraft as well as for systems on earth. His experiments, conducted aboard NASA’s KC-135 parabolic aircraft, uncovered a brand new aspect of the physics of boiling that has led to better understanding of boiling in microgravity.

His current research focuses on developing a flight experiment to be conducted on the space station. His other research includes post critical heat transfer in nuclear reactors and steam generator tube vibrations under two phase flow conditions.
In addition to his many research achievements, Dhir has contributed to publicservice and education as a creator of innovative new outreach initiatives to high school students to encourage careers in science and engineering.

In 2004, Dhir was named the recipient of the prestigious Max Jakob Memorial Award. Bestowed annually to recognize eminent achievement and distinguished service in the area of heat transfer, the award was established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Chemical Engineers to honor Max Jakob, a pioneer in the science of heat transfer.

He has received the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Heat Transfer Memorial Award in the Science category, the Donald Q. Kern award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the Technical Achievement Award from the Thermal Hydraulic Division of the American Nuclear Society. Dhir is a fellow of ASME and the American Nuclear Society, and was inducted into the University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering Hall of Distinction in 2004. He was the senior technical editor for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Journal of Heat Transfer from 2000 to 2005.

Born in India, Dhir received his Bachelor of Science degree from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, India, and his Master of Technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India. He came to the United States in 1969 to continue his studies in mechanical engineering, receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky in 1972.

The mission of NAE is to promote the technological welfare of the nation by gathering the knowledge and insights of eminent members of the engineering profession. The NAE is the portal for all engineering activities at the National Academies, which along with the NAE, include the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.