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Jan Sengers Celebrates 90th Birthday

Distinguished University Professor Jan Sengers celebrated his 90th birthday on May 27 with tributes from his many friends and colleagues.  “... the respect and warmth of the feelings expressed in the comments of colleagues is also in response to your humanity and friendship which many of us have also valued and enjoyed. “   

Sengers’ recent autobiography, published in the International Journal of Thermophysics recounts his education in The Netherlands, his marriage to Anneke Levelt in 1963 and his 60 years of involvement in experimental research.   “...I was born as the eldest of a family of 11 children in Heiloo, a village in the Netherlands where we as children would walk to school and church in wooden shoes. … At the time it was almost inconceivable that a person of my background would be able to get a university education.” 

Encouraged by his schoolteachers, he entered the University of Amsterdam in 1949, receiving his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics in 1952.  As a graduate student he worked in the Van der Waals Laboratory at the University of Amsterdam, earning his Ph.D. in experimental physics, with A.J.F.M. Michels as his advisor.  E.G.D. (Eddie) Cohen became his mentor in theoretical statistical physics.

Jan and Anneke arrived in the US in 1963 to take up positions at the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST):  Anneke made her career as a scientist at NIST while Jan joined the Institute for Molecular Physics at UMD in1968.  The institute merged with the Institute for Fluid Dynamics and Applied Mathematics to become the Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST) in 1976. 

Instrumental in the establishment of the Burgers Program, named after Johannes Burgers, Sengers was a founding member of the Burgers Board and held the position of Chair from 2003-2006.  With Jim Wallace he conceptualized a broad range of activities and participants constituting the Burgers Program in Fluid Dynamics.  Now more than 60 faculty members, spread over 18 different academic and research units in the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences and the A. James Clark School of Engineering, participate in the Burgers Program enhancing the quality and international visibility of fluid dynamics research and educational programs here at UMD.

With more than 260 published articles and 43 books or book chapters, Sengers continues his scientific research not only with his many international collaborators, but also with colleagues in IPST, UMD’s Departments of Chemical and Mechanical Engineering and NIST.  The American Institute of Physics recently highlighted (Scilight, July 9, 2021) the importance of Sengers’ work, in collaboration with Professor Assael (Aristotle University, Greece) Marcia Huber and Rich Perkins (NIST, Boulder, CO), on heavy water.  “Jan Sengers continues to deliver excellent research contributions and breakthroughs.  He is a model and inspiration for all of us!” says IPST Director Konstantina Trivisa.

Among his many honors and awards, he is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the International Association for the Properties of Water and Steam, the World Innovation Foundation and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and Academician Emeritus of the International Academy of Refrigeration of the Russian Federation and is Correspondent, Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences.

He is the recipient of the Touloukian Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (1991), Doctor Honoris Causa, Technical University Delft (1992), was the Touloukian Memorial Lecturer, 14th Symposium on Thermophysical Properties, Boulder, CO (2000) and was Guest of Honor at the 108th Statistical Physics Conference, Rutgers University.