Colorado State Professor Honored for 50 Years of Service

A Colorado State University professor will be honored for his pioneering research and 50 years of service to the university at an evening celebration Nov. 14.

Jack Cermak, a University Distinguished Professor of civil engineering, began his teaching career at Colorado State in 1947, and has distinguished himself as a leader in the field of fluid mechanics and wind engineering.

In 1959, Cermak founded the Fluid Dynamics and Diffusion Laboratory, a facility that revolutionized the study of wind effects on structures, air pollutant dispersion, and snow drifting over geographical features.

In the wind tunnel laboratory, small-scale models of buildings are subjected to simulated wind patterns. The lab allows architects, structural engineers and city planners from around the world to test structures for wind loads before they are built. Cermak’s work has included studies of the swaying of the twin towers of the New York World Trade Center and the gusty conditions that disrupted baseball games in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

In 1973, Cermak’s groundbreaking research on wind effects on buildings and dispersion of air pollutants led to his election into the National Academy of Engineering.

"Professor Cermak’s contribution to wind engineering is immense," said Neil Grigg, chairman of the civil engineering department. "His research has resulted in better understanding of wind forces and wind in environments around the world, and the students he has taught are in responsible positions worldwide. Cermak’s work has greatly decreased property damage from wind and increased human safety and comfort."

Cermak’s current projects include a study of heavy snow drifting along Pena Boulevard on the way to Denver International Airport. Cermak’s research also includes a study on the addition of dampers to high-rise buildings to control swaying. In addition, Cermak is working on wind-tunnel studies of wind loads on low-rise buildings.

"Our ultimate goal is learning how to mitigate damage because of the wind from hurricanes," Cermak said. "From a background of knowledge on effects of wind, we can develop building codes that help minimize storm damage."

In addition to his research, Cermak developed the engineering science major, an interdepartmental undergraduate program he chaired from 1962-73. Cermak also was one of the founders of the Colorado State University Research Foundation.

In 1984, Cermak initiated the annual Cermak Awards, which recognizes one faculty member in each college and the graduate school for providing exceptional advising to students. Cermak also established the Jack E. Cermak wind engineering scholarship which is awarded each year to an outstanding student in the fluid mechanics and wind engineering program.

Cermak plans to continue his teaching and research at Colorado State, as well as providing consulting services to architectural firms, engineering firms, public utilities and federal, state and municipal bodies throughout the world.

"One advantage of doing what you love is there’s no reason to stop," Cermak said. "It has been a privilege to work here at Colorado State. I hope all faculty and students have had as much fun and satisfaction as I’ve had."

The Nov. 14 celebration for Cermak will include a reception and dinner.