Michael von Spakovsky named Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor

Michael von Spakovsky named Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor

Michael von Spakovsky, professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering and director of the Center for Energy Systems Research at Virginia Tech, has been named the Robert E. Hord Jr. Mechanical Engineering Professor by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Robert E. Hord Jr. Professorship of Mechanical Engineering was established by a gift from the late Robert E. Hord Jr. Hord, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a master’s degree the following year, both from the College of Engineering, was an enthusiastic supporter of Virginia Tech’s chemical and mechanical engineering programs.

The professorship acknowledges and rewards faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering who have shown exceptional merit in research, teaching, and/or service. Recipients hold the position for a five-year term.

Since joining the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1997, von Spakovsky has advanced the foundational theories of thermodynamics. He pioneered a new theoretical framework that eliminates phenomenological models and avoids restrictions such as local or global equilibrium. His work has significantly pushed the boundaries of the science of thermodynamics.

In particular, he and his co-workers have developed a new paradigm called steepest-entropy-ascent quantum thermodynamics (SEAQT) that unifies the kinematics and dynamics of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics into a single, self-consistent theory. With his students, he extended SEAQT to be practically applicable from the atomistic level to the macroscopic level and for generalizing the description of equilibrium thermodynamics to any non-equilibrium state.

Published in the most respected journals in physics, von Spakovsky has written more than 235 technical publications, has been involved in $12 million of funded research projects, and has directed 15 doctoral and 41 master’s degree students.

von Spakovsky’s research has been widely recognized. In 2012, he and his student Charles Smith received the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Edward F. Obert Award for their work validating dynamics of SEAQT against the data by Wineland and Haroche, who won the 2012 Noble prize for their experiments.

In 2014, von Spakovsky won the ASME’s prestigious James Harry Potter Gold Medal which recognizes eminent achievement in the science of thermodynamics.
von Spakovsky received his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology.