Amir Karimi, Ph.D.is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering in UTSA’s College of Engineering.
Please tell us about yourself.
I was born in Tehran, Iran. I completed my elementary and high school education in Tehran. I came to the United States for college education. I started my education in a private junior college (Multnomah College) in Portland, Oregon and received an Associate Degree in Pre-engineering from that college. At the time, no public community college existed in Oregon. I met my wife while I was attending junior college and she was a freshman student at Portland State University. Shortly after we married, and our first son was born right before I completed my associate degree.
I transferred to Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR), where I received a BS degree in Metallurgical Engineering and a BS degree in Mathematics.
We moved back to Portland for my wife to complete her college degree at Portland State University, and I attended the University of Portland to pursue my graduate education in Mechanical Engineering. After receiving my MS degree, we moved to Lexington, Kentucky for me to pursue a PhD degree in Mechanical Engineering, focusing on Thermal Sciences. Our second son was born shortly after we moved to Lexington.
What is your job title and what do you do?
Currently, I am a Professor at the department of Mechanical Engineering.
What brought you to UTSA?
When I was close to completing my PhD degree, I started to search for a job either in academia, research organizations, or industry. At early stages of the job hunt, I noticed an announcement posted in the department advertising faculty positions in start-up engineering programs at the University of Texas at San Antonio. I decided to apply for one of the positions in mechanical engineering in the Division of Engineering (now College of Engineering) while applying for positions in other universities and research organizations. Shortly after submitting my application, I was invited to interview at UTSA. A few days after visiting UTSA, I was offered a mechanical engineering faculty position. I accepted the position because I found the job of developing a brand-new engineering program to be exciting and challenging. I joined the newly established Division of Engineering at UTSA in 1982. During the first year, I was the only faculty in the mechanical engineering program
As the founding faculty member of the mechanical engineering program, I had the opportunity of playing a lead role in the development of undergraduate and graduate mechanical engineering programs. Due to the limited number of faculty in the program during the early years, I developed and taught a wide spectrum of engineering courses (19 undergraduate and seven graduate courses). In addition to teaching courses in thermal sciences, I taught courses in materials engineering, manufacturing, numerical methods, and capstone design. I supervised design and honors research projects, directed graduate theses, and special projects. I devoted significant effort and leadership to laboratory development at UTSA, including the creating of initial laboratory capabilities (1982-4) in Measurement and Instrumentation, Fluid Mechanics and Hydraulics, and Thermal Science.
I led the effort of writing the proposals for establishment of the MS degree program in Mechanical Engineering (1987-9), and compiling the self-study report for this program in 1996.
I have held several administrative positions while at UTSA. I served as the Chair of Mechanical Engineering twice (1987-92 and 1998-2003), Associate Dean of Academic Affair in the College of Engineering (2003-6), and the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the Office of Undergraduate Studies (now the University College) (2006-13).
From the start of the engineering program, I contributed to the effort for ABET accreditation of the mechanical engineering program at UTSA. I served as the ABET coordinator in the College of Engineering, guiding all engineering programs through two successful accreditation cycles.
I have served as the faculty advisor for several student engineering organizations including: Engineering Club (1983-8), ASHRAE (1990-2016), ASME (1985-2001), and the COE Student Council (2003-6).
Tell us about your research and what led you to your field.
My research interests are within the fields of thermodynamics, heat transfer, and engineering education. I have conducted both basic and applied research. My research experiences include the specific areas of metastable thermodynamics, laminar film condensation, two-phase flow, sorption refrigeration cycles, thermal storage in phase chance materials, design of energy recovery systems, and computer software development in thermal sciences. I have participated in eight summer research fellowship programs at NASA (JSC, 1990, 1991, and 1997), the Air Force Research and Development Laboratories (School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks AFB, TX, 1983 and 1985; Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, NM 1992 and 1993), and the Navy (Newport, RI, 1998). Projects involved during the summer research program included the thermal analysis and improvement of the liquid-cooled garment used by astronauts during the extra vehicular activities (spacewalk), by the Air Force personnel during chemical warfare, and the fire fighters; design and evaluation of intermittent liquid cooling system for ground crew personnel; thermal control of NASA’s international space station, storage of fuel and oxygen created from the Mars atmosphere to be used for returning space vehicles to Earth, cryogenic cooling of electronic components of satellites; and conducting thermodynamics analysis for methods used to reduce drag on submarines.
Did you go to college with the intention of getting the job you have now? If not, explain how you came to the position you’re in now at the university. Any other jobs lead you here?
I developed interest in engineering as a young child. I was always curious about how devices work. I used to take mechanical watches apart and tried to put them back together. I tried to build a transistor radio and running water through a turbine to create electricity. But, I was not sure what it required to be an engineer. The high school I attended helped me to develop my mathematical skills. My original goal was to get a BS degree in engineering and get a job after that. I studied metallurgical engineering as an undergraduate student. When I completed my BS degree in metallurgical engineering, I was not very excited about the work in that field. As a graduate student, I took advanced courses in thermodynamics and heat transfer. I found the area of thermal sciences to be interesting, therefore, after completing my MS degree, I decided to focus more in the area of thermal sciences and applied for admission to a PhD degree program in that field.
What is your favorite thing about San Antonio?
San Antonio has been unique compared to all of the other places I lived before. It is a multi-cultural city and friendly to newcomers. I was introduced to Tex-Mex food here for the first time and liked it very much. Also, food from other cultures are available throughout the city. And, the weather is nice in the winter.