Tien Started Career as Scientist, Educator





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Of all the roles former Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien played during his life at UC Berkeley, perhaps his most quintessential was also his first-professor of mechanical engineering.

Tien's research at UC Berkeley dealt primarily with the way heat flows through mechanical objects.

He was best known for studying heat transfer phenomena in tiny machines known as microelectro mechanical systems-work that has since paved the way for everything from medical devices to microscopic sensors.

For his work in the field of heat transfer, Tien was awarded the discipline's highest international honor-the Max Jakob Memorial Award-in 1981.

After coming to work at the university in 1959, Tien established himself as not only a premier scientist but also as a superb educator, winning UC Berkeley's prestigious Distinguished Teaching Award when he was only 26 years old, the youngest recipient in the award's history.

Recalled by many in the UC Berkeley community as one of its most beloved chancellors, Tien also left a lasting impression in the minds of his faculty colleagues.

"Last fall, the Institute for Scientific Information produced a list of the most-cited scientific authors in the world and the top 100 authors in engineering," said UC Berkeley mechanical engineering professor Roberto Horowitz. "Professor Tien was included in that list."

Tien's accomplishments in the laboratory, including his publication of more than 300 research articles, set him apart as the most eminent scholar in the field of heat transfer engineering, Horowitz added.

Even after becoming chancellor in 1990, Tien remained active in research, mentoring graduate students and managing a vibrant research group.

Many of the students he taught during his time at the university now hold professorships across the nation.

"It was amazing to me that, given all his duties, he was still able to make time for us," said Leslie Phinney, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who as a student was advised by Tien during his years as chancellor.

Phinney recalled one evening when, having submitted a research paper to Tien for comments at midnight, she was surprised to receive a call from the chancellor at 8 a.m. that morning with his thorough commentary.

"To me, this typified his commitment to research," she said. "When I interact with my own students, I'm trying to do what he did with me and his other students."

Tien was also known for taking particular interest in the well-being of the graduate students he taught.

"I was there in the 1970s when there was more than science and engineering on the minds of students," said Massoud Kaviany, another of Tien's former students and a University of Michigan mechanical engineering professor. "He made us realize how human engineering work can be."

In Tien's laboratory, students found there was always a healthy coexistence between research efforts and personal lives.

"He was thrilled when Bruce and I told him we were going to get married," said Melany Hunt, a California Institute of Technology mechanical engineering professor who met her current husband while both were students of Tien's in the 1980s.

Hunt said she has applied Tien's teaching style to her own students at Caltech.

"He always loved to bring in real world examples to engineering problems, and I try to do the same," Hunt said. "I probably use some of his same examples."

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