Celebrating Excellence: Endowed Chairs in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Endowed Chairs
September 5, 2023

The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering takes pride in its exceptional faculty, which features three esteemed endowed chairs: Professor Carlos Coimbra, Professor Farhat Beg, and Professor Jorge Cortes, each with over a decade of dedicated service. These three faculty members lauded the department for its supportive and diverse environment, as well as its unwavering commitment to the rigorous pursuit of transformative research and education. This alignment of talent and dedication underscores the department's exceptional contributions to the academic world.

Farhat Beg, a renowned expert in high energy density science and a faculty member of MAE for 20 years, has been appointed as the inaugural recipient of the Shao-Chi and Lily Lin Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Engineering Science. This endowed chair was established through a $1 million gift from Lily Lin in honor of her late husband, Shao-Chi Lin, a renowned aeronautical engineer who specialized in excimer lasers and gas dynamics. 

Beg leads UC San Diego's Center of Excellence on Matter Under Extreme Conditions, where his research focuses on high-power lasers and pulsed power Z-pinch, aiming to generate matter under extreme temperature and pressure conditions with applications in thermonuclear fusion and advanced extreme ultraviolet lithography. EUV lithography, in particular, plays a crucial role in producing cutting-edge and compact semiconductor chips that are integral components of a wide array of modern devices, such as smartphones. Beg was enthusiastic about advancing his research in thermonuclear fusion, particularly in the wake of recent achievements at the National Ignition Facility, emphasizing the importance of addressing challenges to harness fusion as a limitless energy source and involving more outstanding students in curiosity-driven projects.

Carlos Coimbra, an esteemed faculty member and the former Department Chair of MAE, has been honored with the John Dove Isaacs Chair in Natural Philosophy in Engineering. This prestigious chair is named in memory of John Dove Isaacs, a visionary leader renowned for his contributions to multidisciplinary research and his enduring impact on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) at UC San Diego. The chair, originally endowed by Mary Carol Isaacs in 1982 to rotate every five years among chairholders in SIO, Natural Sciences (NS), and Engineering (JSOE), now designates Coimbra as the inaugural Isaacs Chair for Engineering. This distinction, considered one of the oldest endowed chairs on campus, brings a sense of honor and responsibility. Professor Coimbra is an expert in planetary-scale heat and mass transfer processes, with a particular emphasis on shortwave (solar) and longwave (atmospheric) radiative applications. He heads a highly multidisciplinary research group that integrates research from the most fundamental (e.g., variable order differential equations, photon transport simulations) fields in mathematics and science to the most applied (e.g., solar forecasting, solar power integration, solar plant design) fields in engineering. 

In just 6 years at UC San Diego (of 12 total), Professor Coimbra transitioned from a faculty member to department chair in 2017, playing a pivotal role in shaping the faculty, graduate, and undergraduate programs for the department. Coimbra aided in the expansion of both traditional and non-traditional MAE research areas, with the department now serving as one of the largest on the West Coast. With a focus on providing students with a unique blend of fundamental and applied engineering knowledge, Coimbra aimed to foster innovation for the benefit of society. He emphasized that MAE serves as a launching pad for building distinguished careers, recognizing the department’s position at the forefront of engineering research and education. The endowment he received will directly impact the quality and adaptability of his research, making these gifts invaluable to the academic community.

Professor Jorge Cortés, a prominent member of MAE for 16 years, recently received the Cymer Corporation Endowed Chair in High-Performance Dynamic Systems Modeling and Control, generously supported by Richard L. Sandstrom, Sandra S. Timmons, Robert P. Akins, and ASML (formerly the Cymer Corporation).

Professor Cortes boasts numerous accolades, such as the NSF Career Award in 2006 and the 2006 Spanish Society of Applied Mathematics Young Researcher Prize. He's authored significant works, including the book "Geometric, Control and Numerical Aspects of Nonholonomic Systems" and co-authored "Distributed Control of Robotic Networks." He is the recipient of several “best paper” awards, and he has held several positions in the IEEE Control Systems Society, among many other distinguished titles and accomplishments.  

Professor Cortes' research centers on distributed coordination algorithms, autonomous robotic networks, adversarial networked systems, mathematical control theory, geometric mechanics, and geometric integration. His interdisciplinary research explores the science and engineering behind network systems, and he aims to develop systematic methodologies for controlling mobile networks, making them autonomous, reliable, and adaptive in dynamic environments. Cortes offered significant recognition to the MAE department, highlighting its provision of invaluable mentorship, collaboration with a diverse faculty, and the presence of exceptional students. The endowment will allow his research group to forge advancements using creative and flexible methods.