Alexander J. Smits named an Officer of the Order of Australia

Alexander J. Smits, an expert in fluid dynamics, has been named an Officer of the Order of Australia for his distinguished service to aerospace engineering and higher education. This is one of the highest civilian honors given by the Australian government for outstanding achievement.

Smits is one of only 47 Officers of the Order to be recognized this year for distinguished service. He was recognized on Australia Day — Australia’s national holiday, which takes place each year on January 26 — alongside about a thousand other honorees being inducted into the Order for civilian and military achievements.

Alexander Smits
Alexander Smits. Photo courtesy of Smits

Smits is the Eugene Higgins Professor Emeritus and senior research scholar in mechanical and aerospace engineering. His work has explored supersonic and hypersonic flows, bio-inspired flows, aerodynamics of sports, and novel energy-harvesting concepts. His studies on canonical wall-bounded turbulence included the introduction of unique facilities and novel instrumentation and are considered a landmark achievement. His current research is focused on active flow controls to reduce drag and heat transfer in turbulent flows. The goal of this work is to reduce energy consumption for large-scale vehicles like ships and airplanes, as well as flows in pipes.

Smits served on the faculty at Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science for 37 years before transferring to emeritus status in 2018. He chaired Princeton’s MAE department for 13 years and directed the Gas Dynamics Laboratory on the Forrestal Campus for 33 years. “Lex is an international leader in research and education,” said Howard Stone, Elizabeth Dixon Professor and current chair of MAE. “He also led the department with intellectual depth and personal kindness.”

Smits was named a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020. He is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has authored three books, including a widely used undergraduate fluid mechanics textbook. He has been awarded seven patents and helped found three companies.

He has been recognized with many awards for his scientific contributions, including the 2020 Batchelor Prize from the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics; the 2019 Fluid Dynamics Prize from the American Physical Society; the Fluids Engineering Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; and the Fluid Dynamics Award, Pendray Aerospace Literature Award, and Aerodynamic Measurement Technology Award, all from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Smits was born in Amsterdam and moved to Melbourne, Australia, as a child. He received his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and joined the Princeton faculty in 1981.

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    Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering