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Lab named in memory of longtime aerospace engineering professor

Kirti Ghia was a UC faculty member for nearly 50 years and a pioneer in fluid dynamics

A photo of Kirti 'Karman' Ghia sits in the computational fluid dynamics lab that now bears his name in memory of his nearly 50 years at UC.

A photo of Kirti 'Karman' Ghia sits in the computational fluid dynamics lab that now bears his name. Photo/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing.

Kirti “Karman” Ghia was a well-known fixture at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) for his entire 47-year career. His legacy as a teacher and research pioneer in the field of fluid dynamics was celebrated with the naming and dedication of the Professor Kirti “Karman” N. Ghia Computational Research Laboratory located in the Engineering Research Center. 

Karman, as his UC colleagues called him, was a professor of aerospace engineering and was highly regarded for his dedication and mentorship to his students. He was equally known for his passion for his research and the significant contributions he made to aerospace engineering. Karman’s innovative research in computational fluid dynamics is frequently cited as a benchmark by other researchers. Karman and his wife Urmila Ghia, professor emerita of mechanical engineering, worked together at CEAS primarily in the area of fluid dynamics, authoring some of their many research publications together. 

Kirti and Urmila Ghia

Kirti and Urmila Ghia.

When Karman passed away in 2017, his family and the university set up the Professor Kirti “Karman” Ghia Endowed Graduate Student Assistance Fund which provides financial support for international students pursuing graduate studies in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering. 

At the dedication event held in the lab now bearing Karman’s name, former colleagues, students and friends filled the room, including UC President Neville Pinto, who first met Karman when they both worked in the college. Pinto shared the warm welcome and offer of help he received from Karman – a sentiment that resonated throughout Karman’s relationships with colleagues and students alike. Pinto described both Karman and Urmila as dedicated teachers, innovative researchers and caring mentors to students.

“Much like his wife, his definition of being a scholar and a teacher meant working long hours and helping students whenever they needed him. He wanted them to be successful and, most importantly, love what they did,” Pinto said.

UC President Pinto shares his comments about Kirti Ghia at the lab dedication.

UC President Pinto shares his thoughts about his friend at the event dedicating the Professor Kirti 'Karman' N. Ghia Computations Research Laboratory. Photo/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing.

Throughout his nearly 50 years as a UC professor, Karman supervised and guided 50 master’s students, 20 doctoral students, seven post-doctoral fellows, three research associates and one research faculty member. 

While at UC, Karman was co-director of the Computational Fluid Dynamics Research Laboratory and director of the Institute of Computational Mechanics. 

He received all of the major UC faculty awards, including the Mrs. A.B. “Dolly” Cohen Award for Excellence in Teaching, the George B. Barbour Award for Superior Student-Faculty Relations and the George Rieveschl Award for Distinguished Scientific Research. He was given the titles of Distinguished Teaching Professor and Herman Schneider Professor of Engineering. He was elected by his peers as a member of the Graduate Fellows and of the Academy of Fellows of Teaching and Learning. 

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) named him a Freeman Scholar and the society’s Fluids Engineering Division honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He served on many committees and was chair for various national and international symposiums and meetings. 

Paul Orkwis, professor of aerospace engineering and special assistant to the dean for international programs, shared his chance meeting with Karman at a conference while a master’s student and how he was struck by the genuine attention and interest Karman paid him during their conversation. Karman encouraged the young Orkwis to come to UC, and years later, thanks in large part to Urmila and Karman’s championing of the university and CEAS, Orkwis joined the aerospace engineering faculty in Cincinnati. When Orkwis would travel to aerospace engineering events and mentioned he worked at UC, everyone would mention Karman.

“They would tell me ‘say hello to Professor Ghia for me.’ Everybody was his friend,” Orkwis said.  

Urmila described her late husband as a fun person who was the joy of their family (which includes the couple’s two daughters, two sons-in-law and six grandkids). She said Karman was her loudest cheerleader and her best friend.

“He never shied away from asking difficult questions at a seminar or pushing others to look at something in a different way – and, in doing so, he helped others to achieve new heights of understanding and achievement,” Urmila said. 

To celebrate the legacy and impact of Kirti “Karman” Ghia at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, alumni and friends may choose to make a gift to the scholarship fund set up in his memory

Video link:

Featured image at top: Faculty and friends gathered at a lab dedication for Kirti 'Karman' Ghia. Photos and video/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing.