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Decorated Professor Adds Farfel Award to his Long List of Honors

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Lisa Merkl, UH External Communications
Fazle Hussain, Hugh Roy & Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, 2007 Esther Farfel Award recipient. Photo by Thomas Shea.
Fazle Hussain, Hugh Roy & Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, 2007 Esther Farfel Award recipient. Photo by Thomas Shea.

Fazle Hussain receives University of Houston's Highest Faculty Honor

Fazle Hussain will need a larger trophy room as this year’s recipient of the University of Houston’s highest faculty honor. Already one of the most decorated scholars in his field, Hussain now can add the 2007 Esther Farfel Award to his list of accomplishments. The award brings with it a $10,000 cash prize and an acknowledgement of overall career excellence.

Coming to the United States from Bangladesh as a Fulbright Scholar in 1965 and joining UH in 1971, Hussain is the Hugh Roy & Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering. As a fluid dynamicist, he has won all four of the field’s most coveted awards granted by the American Physical Society, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He also has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He focuses primarily on the search for ‘order within disorder’ in fluid turbulence. His interests include aircraft drag and reduction for lower fuel consumption and pollution, as well as abetting wake hazard to reduce aircraft separation during takeoff and landing – a major problem at busy airports. Additional studies he is involved with include cardiovascular dynamics, cell mechanics, nanomechanics and energy.

“As the only individual to be awarded all four major prizes in the field of fluid dynamics, Hussain is the world’s most celebrated scholar in the area of fluid mechanics and turbulence studies,” wrote a UH colleague in an endorsement letter.

Leading the Aerodynamics and Turbulence Laboratory at UH, Hussain was one of the first to recognize that the organized motion underlying the seemingly random motion of turbulence is the key to understanding and controlling it for technological benefits.

A colleague from another university wrote in a letter of support that Hussain is “one of the top five experimental turbulence researchers in the world. He serves as a benchmark against which people should measure themselves in our profession.”

Hussain has published more than 250 scientific papers and received more than $10 million in competitive research funding from federal and state organizations. In addition to his impact on research and scholarship, Hussain’s dedication to teaching and commitment to service also are important elements that earned him the Farfel honor. The very tenets of the Farfel award, Hussain said, are what he believes is most gratifying about teaching – “the transmission of knowledge, the creation of new knowledge, and professional, community and academic service both inside and outside a university.”

He enjoys motivating students to think outside the box, provoking them to think in fresh ways about turbulence.

“The satisfaction is in the quality of the results and publications students achieve,” Hussain said. “I’m thrilled if they get a good job, learn to give good talks and get significant awards. Inspiring them as future faculty also is rewarding. If they, in turn, go on to teach and motivate other students, I feel I also am teaching their students, indirectly.”

In a letter of support, one of his former students wrote Hussain “truly believes that teaching is not so much a matter of passing knowledge through narration or demonstration as it is of training the student on how to learn by rigorous thinking and critical analysis.”

In fact, Hussain asserts that he finds it “most gratifying when a student has come to a level that he or she can challenge my ideas, as it’s the intellectual battle with students that produces new ideas. I’m happy when I learn from students.”

Perhaps one of his former students best sums up Hussain’s Farfel qualities by outlining his multifaceted approach to his job as a faculty member.

“A professor must not only teach, but also learn and create new knowledge; support, grow and guide the educational and scientific institutions of which he is a part; be a public resource in the service of the broader society; and must pursue excellence to the utmost of his abilities.”

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