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Aerospace Engineer Honored for Lifetime Achievement
From: University Currents
Date: April 14, 2000
By: Chris Curran
Phone: (513) 556-1806
Archive: Campus News, Research News

Widen Tabakoff is one of those individuals who never quite learned the concept of "retirement." He started at UC in 1958 and is officially a professor emeritus of aerospace engineering, but he remains an active researcher and adviser in the College of Engineering at the age of 80.

image of Tabakoff in lab

Tabakoff's colleagues, family and former students honored him Friday, April 7 with a special tribute dinner and roast at the Kingsgate Conference Center.

"He is not only a great scientist and mentor, but a marvelous friend and human being," said Professor Awatef Hamed, a longtime colleague in the department of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics.

Friends came from all over, including his first PhD student Rodney Boudreaux who did actually retire and now lives in California.

image of Tabakoff at dinner

Hamed said that Tabakoff started the doctoral program in aerospace and has supervised more than 50 doctoral students and over 200 master's theses in his years at UC. Forty-two years later, he's still going strong. "He's still here every day doing research," said Hamed. In fact, Tabakoff left shortly after the celebration for an engineering conference in San Diego where he was chairing one session and delivering an invited paper.

Tabakoff is known worldwide for his work in jet propulsion and for uncovering the causes of erosion or damage to turbomachinery. Whether it's ash from a volcano or an unfortunate impact of a stray bird, Tabakoff can calculate the impact on jet engines.

His research lab contains some of the most sophisticated equipment for measuring those impacts, including a three-dimensional LDV (laser doppler velocimetry) system.

Recent research projects have included an investigation of helicopter blade deterioration for the U.S. Navy and research projects for General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Rolls Royce, Texaco, and Mobil.

He has been an invited lecturer around the world from England, Germany and Spain to Egypt and India. He has reviewed research proposals for NASA, the Natinal Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.

Tabakoff was elected a Fellow of both the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

And if that wasn't enough, he continues to serve on the editorial boards of two engineering journals.

Department head Gary Slater probably summed up his longevity best. "I have no doubt," said Slater, "that when I hang up my chalk and decide to retire, Widen will still be here, working and raising hell."