Today Hassan Aref received the honorary degree of “doctor technices honoris causa,” the highest honor awarded by the Technical University of Denmark, on May 6 at the university’s commencement ceremony.

Four of the university’s institutes – mechanics, physics, nanotechnology, and mathematics – collaborated on the recommendation of Aref for this honor. This honorary degree follows the completion of his five years of partial residence at the Technical University of Denmark as its Niels Bohr Visiting Professor. During this time, one of Aref’s hosts was Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr’s grandson.  

Aref is the Reynolds Metals Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Virginia Tech. He alternated semesters between Virginia Tech and the Technical University of Denmark for the five years during which he held the named visiting professorship.

According to the website for the award, the granting of an honorary doctorate is based on an assessment of the “nominee's scientific contributions and efforts related to the promotion of the Technical University of Denmark’s vision to be internationally recognized as a leading university within technology and science, known for its professional orientation, sustainability and for providing a personalized study environment."

When awarding the title, the Technical University of Denmark emphasizes that the recognition “is given to persons who are deemed to have achieved such scientific stature that it is natural to honor them with the highest academic degree."

The Technical University of Denmark is an internationally respected institution. The Quacquarelli Symonds world university rankings place it 82nd worldwide in engineering and technology and US News’ ranks Virginia Tech 69th

Earlier this year, Aref was named the recipient of the G. I. Taylor Medal by the Society of Engineering Science. The award, made in recognition of Aref’s outstanding research contributions in fluid mechanics, will be presented at the society’s annual meeting held at Northwestern University on Oct. 12-14, 2011.

The Taylor Medal is presented on a very selective basis with no fixed schedule. The last one was presented in 2003.

“Dr. Aref  is the father of chaotic advection, a strategy for using chaos theory to mix fluids, that has been particularly important in the area of microfluidics,” said Ishwar Puri, professor and head of the engineering science and mechanics department at Virginia Tech. “He is also one of the world authorities on point vortex dynamics, a modeling tool used extensively in aerodynamics, and originating in the seminal 1858 work of Hermann von Helmholtz.”

“In this area Aref’s contributions include the re-discovery of the integrable three-vortex problem, identification of chaos in the four-vortex problem both in bounded and unbounded motions (so-called chaotic scattering), the first determination of asymmetric relative equilibria, and the very elegant solutions of the three-vortex problem in periodic domains,” Puri added.

Some of the previous recipients of the honorary degree at the Technical University of Denmark include Alan Needleman and Cleve Moler, members of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and Edwin N. Lightfoot and John W. Hutchison, members of both the National Academy of Engineering and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Niels Bohr, Nobel laureate in physics in 1922, received the honorary degree from DTU in 1929.

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