Leon van Dommelen, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, (retired February 2016), joined the newly established FAMU-FSU Institute (now FAMU-FSU College) of Engineering in 1984 as the second faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Dr. Van Dommelen received his Ph.D. degree from Cornell University in 1981 working with Prof. Shan-Fu Shen. In his Ph.D. thesis, he discovered an important new property of flows of ordinary gases and liquids around smooth bodies: the boundary layers that form at the surfaces of such bodies spontaneously break up by means of a process called 'unsteady boundary layer separation.' Before Dr. Van Dommelen found this process numerically and explained it theoretically, there had been considerable doubt whether such a process would really occur in supposedly well-understood unsteady boundary layers.
Most of Dr. Van Dommelen's research has been a similar mix of numerical and theoretical work on fundamental questions. He has developed and corrected theoretical descriptions of boundary layer separation processes under varying conditions, and he has developed a simply approximate model to predict its occurrence; he has found the correct extended evolution of 'unsteady rear stagnation point flow', (one of the rare almost exact nonlinear solutions of the equations of fluid mechanics), analyzed the interactions between vortices, and developed powerful new expressions to determine the aerodynamic forces on moving bodies.
But Dr. Van Dommelen has also written computer programs to study stalling aircraft wings, after developing a new fast numerical method to speed up that kind of computations, and he has developed a new numerical method to compute diffusion processes under difficult conditions. Currently he is working on the permanent solution of the problem of turbulence using fractal concepts.