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In Memoriam: Iraj Kalkhoran

Iraj Kalkhoran

The entire NYU Tandon School of Engineering community is saddened by the recent death of Associate Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Academics and Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Iraj Kalkhoran, who was affiliated with the school for almost three decades, having joined the faculty not long after earning his doctoral degree from the University of Texas at Arlington in the late 1980s.

To read through a list of Professor Kalkhoran’s publications, grants, research interests, and patents is to be impressed by the depth and breadth of his scholarly work. His areas of expertise included high-speed aerodynamics, aero-propulsion, and wind tunnel design and testing, and his earliest work focused on experimental supersonic aerodynamics involving the interaction of shock waves and vortices, including pioneering research on what happens when vortices (swirling masses of fluid or gas) break down under supersonic conditions.

When the school maintained a campus on Long Island, he was deeply involved in research conducted in what was then one of the country’s few academic supersonic tunnels, which was able to operate above Mach 2.5 — meaning two-and-a-half times the speed of sound in the medium. The tunnel simulated conditions encountered by missiles and high-speed aircraft, and the research findings by Kalkhoran and other School of Engineering faculty were extremely valuable to NASA, the U.S. Army and Air Force, and others.

Professor Kalkhoran’s later research focused on thrust reversing (diverting an aircraft engine's exhaust to cause deceleration) and thrust vectoring (manipulating the direction of the thrust as a means of controlling altitude or angular velocity), as well as on novel techniques to reduce noise from high-speed jets. (He holds a patent for a method of doing so via fluidic injection.)

Iraj was, as fellow researchers have pointed out, one of the few remaining experimentalists studying high-speed flows and shock waves, an enormously challenging area in which good experimental data are hard to come by but essential for understanding the fundamental physics, designing new applications, and improving current ones. 

In addition to being a stellar researcher, Professor Kalkhoran displayed a deep commitment to the overall state of engineering education; among his many roles at the school was the founding of the Center for Faculty Innovations in Teaching and Learning (FITL), which is dedicated to advancing educational best practices. Upon making the move from Farmingdale to Brooklyn, he readily assumed the role of associate dean of undergraduate academics — later adding graduate academics to his responsibilities — and in those capacities he became known for his fierce advocacy on behalf of his students, as well as his devotion to them and belief in their talents.

Iraj was instrumental in nurturing an entrepreneurial ethos at the school, a driving force in the adoption of its Invention, Innovation and Entrepreneurship focus. He was responsible for launching the Undergraduate Summer Research Program, by which aspiring young scientists and engineers spend 10 weeks conducting hands-on research under distinguished faculty mentors.

At the School of Engineering, Professor Kalkhoran will long be remembered as a brilliant colleague, devoted teacher, and stellar role model to all lucky enough to know him. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family.