What do you do here?
I teach engineering—specifically, how fluids and heat can be moved from one place to another to do useful things, like produce energy so we can transport ourselves, keep people warm, and cook food efficiently. Just the bare essentials of life.
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Job: Thinking and teaching thinking
Number of years at UI: 16
Family: Married to Sarah Vigmostad; two kids, Mira, 13, and Vidya, 6; Bindi the cat.
Hometown: Mysore, India
Alma mater: University of Florida
What do you enjoy most about working in a higher education setting?
It lets me learn new things every day, and I get paid to do it. Someone once said that the difference between being a teacher and a professor is that while the teacher presents bodies of knowledge effectively, a professor has the added responsibility of creating new knowledge. I like both conveying knowledge to young people and working with young people to create new knowledge. It keeps things interesting. What a job!
Describe your most memorable day at the university.
It hasn't come yet. That will be when a student in my class spontaneously says: “That is the most interesting thing anyone ever told me.”
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken—and did it pay off?
I acquired facial hair early, in my teens. Then I watched Superman, and, seeing as he is clean-shaven, I was inspired to shave my beard, hoping that it would endow me with superpowers of some kind. It scared a bunch of people, so I stopped doing it.
If you could spend a day with anyone, from any era, who would it be and why?
Gandhi. He has so many things to offer to the world today, most of all showing how we should act on our best impulses. Someone said, “if Gandhi were alive today, he would kick the you-know-what out of everybody.”
If you could have a song written about you, who would perform it, and what would it be called?
It would be called “Staying Alive” and it would be performed by the Bee Gees, in celebration of my utter inability to dance.
If you could get rid of one invention in the world, what would you choose? Why?
The gun. Nothing good ever came of it.
Name five of your favorite things:
- My family
- Good, clean, organic, vegan food
- Hong Kong—the way a city should be built
- Watching Roger Federer play—pure physical artistry
- The Sound of Music; all of our lives should be like that, except for the Nazi part