Jim Hill retires from CBE after 46 years of research, education and outreach

Hill (left) receives a plaque from CBE’s Reginald R. Baxter Endowed Department Chair Andy Hillier at the reception in his honor.

Chemical and Biological Engineering University Professor James (Jim) Hill has announced his retirement, and was honored with a reception hosted by the department. Hill has been part of the CBE faculty since 1971 and served as department chair from 2005-2009. His work as a researcher, educator and advocate for students through the renowned ISU solar car team and student organizations will leave a lasting legacy.

He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1968. After working in NASA’s Laboratory for Theoretical Studies and Shell Development Co., he began looking into a career in academia. An associate tipped him off to a faculty opening in Iowa State’s Chemical Engineering Department. Hill, who had never seen the Midwest, applied for the position and was hired. He has made Ames and Iowa State his home ever since.

Computational fluid dynamics has dominated his research at Iowa State, with a particular emphasis on chemical reactions and turbulent flow. His turbulence research received support from the NASA-Ames Research Center, IBM, The National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Center for Turbulence Research and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. In 2000 Hill and fellow CBE professor Rodney Fox received funding from NSF and Dow Chemical to develop a turbulent mixing laboratory at Iowa State which includes laser and high-speed particle imagery components. At the time, few chemical engineering departments boasted such laboratories. Hill has been a regional editor for the journal “Fluid Dynamics Research” and a member of the Computational Fluid Dynamics Center at Iowa State. He has held visiting appointments at Japan’s Nagoya University, the Isaac Newton Institute in the United Kingdom and at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Rouen, France. He received the Iowa Board of Regents Faculty Excellence Award in 1996.

Hill was pictured with the most recent Team PrISUm solar car when he was featured in the university’s “Change Agent” series. He has been the faculty adviser to the highly successful program since 1989. Iowa State University photo by Christopher Gannon.
Hill was recently named a distinguished alumnus by the Department of Chemical Engineering at his alma mater, the University of Washington. A plaque commemorating the honor was displayed at his reception.

He has been active for many years in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), where he was named a Fellow in 1996 and was on the organization’s Board of Directors from 2001-2003. He has also been involved with the Council for Chemical Research and the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society as a campus adviser and Director of District 11 (upper Midwest). He was named Tau Beta Pi’s first National Outstanding Adviser in 1994.

One of Hill’s most enduring contributions has come as faculty adviser for Iowa State’s PrISUm solar car racing team, a position he has held since 1989. Under Hill’s guidance, Team PrISUm has become one of the most successful and familiar forms of outreach for science and engineering at Iowa State. From involvement in the early solar car events under the banner of “Sunrayce” to the more recent American Solar Challenge events, Iowa State’s solar car efforts have garnered plenty of results and attention – including first-place finishes in some of the nation’s most prestigious events. In honor of his years of dedication to the ISU program, Hill was presented with the American Solar Challenge Lifetime Achievement Award last year.

Hill will continue to be part of the department and the university as a professor emeritus.