Vakakis receives Willett Professorship


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Dean Rashid Bashir and Willett Professor Alexander Vakakis
Dean Rashid Bashir and Willett Professor Alexander Vakakis
On Thursday, November 29, MechSE Professor Alexander Vakakis was awarded a Donald Biggar Willett Professorship of Engineering at an investiture ceremony at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

His new appointment is the result of his exceptional research, teaching, and service. At Thursday's investiture, he expressed his gratitude for the professorship and for being part of the engineering community at Illinois. 

“This is a great place. The level of scholarship, the level of originality, and the opportunities that Illinois offers is truly amazing,” Vakakis said. “It’s an amazing place for people to pursue their ideas.”

His current research includes the implementation of passive nonlinear targeted energy transfer for aeroelastic instability (flutter) suppression, vortex-induced vibration suppression, seismic mitigation, blast protection, and vibration/shock isolation of mechanical and structural components; dynamics of non-smooth dynamical systems, with emphasis to vibro-impacting systems and systems with friction; nonlinear system identification and reduced order modeling; structural health monitoring and damage detection; essentially nonlinear structural acoustics of granular media; strongly nonlinear micro- and nano-resonators; nonlinear vibration energy harvesting; and theoretical studies of dynamical systems and bifurcations in higher dimensional settings. He co-runs the Linear and Nonlinear Dynamics and Vibrations Laboratorywith two faculty from the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

In addition to being exceptionally active in his research, Vakakis is an excellent teacher. He has been included on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent seven times in the past five years, while teaching several undergraduate courses and advanced graduate classes.

Vakakis joined the MechSE Department in 1990 after completing his PhD in applied mechanics from the California Institute of Technology that same year.

The Donald Biggar Willett Professorship honors the memory of its namesake, who attended the University of Illinois from 1916 to 1921. He started his career as a partner in the family business, Suburban Coal and Supply Company and later worked as a self-employed bookkeeper and tax preparer. In 1994, his widow, Elizabeth Marie Willett, willed her entire estate to the College of Engineering, which established the Willett Research Initiatives Fund.

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This story was published November 30, 2018.