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October 24, 2003

Robert Brown is first holder of endowed chair in thermal sciences

by Annette Hacker
Robert C. Brown, professor in mechanical engineering and chemical engineering and director of the Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies, is the first recipient of the Bergles Professorship in Thermal Sciences. He was honored at a medallion reception on campus Oct. 17.

As Bergles professor, Brown will lead curricula and programs in the thermal sciences and mentor department faculty. He also will pursue interdisciplinary thermal science opportunities, and promote interaction with practicing engineers to assure leadership in thermal sciences at Iowa State.

"Robert has an international reputation for exemplary and innovative work in bioresources. His contributions will make a real difference in providing an economical approach to the growing problem of worldwide fuel shortages," said James Melsa, dean of the Engineering college. "We currently are involved in an initiative to be a Top 20 engineering program. Faculty like Robert make that an achievable goal."

The Bergles professorship
The Bergles professorship was established through an endowment by Arthur and Penny Bergles of Centerville, Mass., to attract or retain an outstanding senior faculty member in the thermal sciences.

Arthur Bergles chaired Iowa State's mechanical engineering department from 1972 to 1983, and was professor-in-charge of the heat transfer laboratory. He also played an instrumental role in funding and constructing Black Engineering.

Bergles now is the Clark and Crossan Professor Emeritus at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering at the University of Maryland, and a senior lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and three foreign academies, and a fellow of five professional societies.

The first recipient
Brown teaches undergraduate courses in thermodynamics, fluid dynamics and heat transfer; and graduate courses in combustion, fluidized bed technology and biorenewable resources. His research interests include the use of biorenewable resources as a source of chemicals and energy. One aspect of Brown's work includes combustion and gasification in fluidized beds for electric power production. He also works with fermentation experts on converting structural plant material into biobased products.

Brown has eight patents, including a carbon-in-ash monitor that won an R&D 100 Award in 1997. He is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and has received many faculty research awards during his 20 years at Iowa State. He has been a leader in establishing the bioeconomy initiative, and recently published a textbook on biorenewable resources.

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