Luis P. Bernal

22 juin 19497 avril 2021

On Wednesday, April 7, 2021, Professor Emeritus Luis P. Bernal, loving husband and father of three children, valued friend, colleague, and teacher, passed away at home surrounded by family at the age of 71. Professor Bernal was born on June 22, 1949 in Barcelona Spain to Felix Bernal and Maria Dominguez. From a very young age Professor Bernal was passionate about flight. When he began his Aeronautics studies at the Polytechnic University of Madrid one of his favorite things to do was to take his future wife to the airport cafeteria and watch the planes take off and land, all the while talking passionately about the physics of flight as well as the specifics of each plane. After receiving his Engineering degree in 1971, he married Sara Garcia Guijarro in Madrid Spain on September 16, 1974. Together they moved to the United States where he went on to receive his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1981, and his Dc.Ing from Polytechnic University of Madrid in 1983. During this time his three children were born. He joined the faculty of the Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Michigan as an Assistant Professor in 1984 and retired as a Full Professor in 2020. Professor Luis Bernal was for many years a friend, colleague and a valued member of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan. He will be remembered for his many contributions: to his field of study; to his colleagues on the faculty and staff in the department; and to the many students he helped prepare for their future careers.

Professor Bernal was a world-class scientist in the field of experimental fluid mechanics. He published work and held patents in turbulence theory and experimental methods, microgravity flows, gas flows in microsystems, and flapping-wing flight. Two of his microgravity fluid experiments, developed in collaboration with students, flew on Space Shuttle missions. His Ph.D. thesis work on the turbulent mixing of fluids was considered to be so important that it was included in several textbooks. He made lasting contributions to the aerospace curriculum. He was a primary developer of the department’s graduate courses in viscous flow, turbulent flow, and experimental fluid mechanics, and regularly taught boundary layers and viscous-flow aerodynamics at the undergraduate level. Professor Bernal mentored a large number of both undergraduate and graduate students who, over the years, have expressed their appreciation for his help. At the graduate level he mentored students who conducted experiments in micro-air vehicles that simulate the flight of birds. He taught students how to conduct hands-on experiments that supplemented the understanding that they gained from other theoretical courses. At the undergraduate level, he was the Program Advisor for more than ten years, personally meeting with hundreds of students per year to help them through a challenging field of study. He also served as faculty advisor to several student groups, including one that designed a solar-powered model airplane and one that developed ways to fabricate and deploy satellites in space. Professor Bernal will be remembered as a valued colleague who dedicated a great deal of his life to educating students and to interacting with his colleagues in the department. He always made time to meet with people to assist them. Many undergraduates who were mentored by him have expressed how his influence shaped their careers. He will be fondly remembered and sorely missed by faculty, staff and alumni of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan.

As a husband and father Luis was a kind, supportive presence who was always there when needed. He loved to travel and was happy to drive his son to California to start his job, or drive his daughter Sara to Los Alamos, NM or Austin, TX to start her summer internships. He organized all the family’s road trips over the years, whether it was to Disney World, Hershey Park, Cedar Point, or to Washington DC. He was famous for his whirlwind “European Escapes” where he would fly to Europe and make several stops for work and to see his family in the space of a few days or a week. He also never missed an opportunity for an adventure. When his daughter Sara spent a summer in West Virginia working at a DOE laboratory he insisted on going white water rafting on the Lower New River with all three of his children. Several times he was bounced out of the raft and had to be hauled back onboard, much to his own amusement. His sunny disposition never allowed bad moods to linger for long. His loss has been a blow to the family, life will not be the same without him, and he will be forever missed.

Luis was preceded in death by his father, Felix Bernal, his mother, Maria Dominguez, his brother Felix, and his sister Montserrat. He is survived by his wife, Sara, his three children, Luis Manuel, Sara Montserrat and Cristina Isabel, his brother Manuel, his sister Mari Carmen, his grandchildren, Sara June, Joseph, and William, several nephews and a niece.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.muehligannarbor.com for the Bernal family.


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Luis P. Bernal


Weisheng Chen

3 mai , 2021

Professor Bernal was my mentor and the kindest professor. I enjoyed very much his classes like our Capstone design class and Experimental Aerodynamics. He was always patient with explaining things to me in my research work with him. He supported me in finishing up my research even after the semester had ended, spending time in the wind tunnel with me, and eventually travelling with me to present our work at a conference. I know many students who benefited from his kindness and friendship. We were blessed to have been his students. May he rest in peace.

Huai-Te Yu

3 mai , 2021

Professor Bernal was my Ph.D. advisor (2010-2014) in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan. Retrospect my first meeting with Professor Bernal, when was the next day after arrival at DTW for the study from Taiwan. Although I was eager to get involved in research because of only a four-year Ph.D. study granted, he pulled me back by saying, "you have not being accepted yet," which disappointed me for a while. After a few months, I realized that he wanted me to settle down with my family first and take my time to enjoy the study at UOM. When deriving equations for a lens-shifted PIV system constructed for the three-dimensional flow of pitching wing, we came out a new parameter that is the product of pitch rate and wing chord squared divided by fluid viscosity. I suggested naming this parameter using his name as Bernal's number. He thought this problem is similar to Stoke's problems about the impulsive and oscillatory flat plate. This parameter is eventually regarded as Stoke's number after discussion. When I expressed my admiration for his clear mind in reasoning at the age of 62, He laughed and said, "If you want to know what your wife will be looked like, look at your mother-in-law." Professor Bernal is a thoughtful, decent, thankful, and patient person who devoted himself to the field of fluid mechanics and whom I am grateful to have as an advisor and mentor.

Patricia Angle

30 avril , 2021

Dr. Bernal was one of my favorite professors, and one of the few I felt comfortable asking for help with schoolwork. He was always welcoming and cheerful and made me feel like my questions weren't terribly stupid (which, of course, was my fear). He made our Viscous Flow class so much fun. I was fascinated by it, and the textbook sits in my office even though I'm in a different field now. His accent always made me smile, too. His thick accent, combined with the way you could always tell he had a million thoughts packed into his brain, are things I'll always remember about him. I hope I can inspire some of my students the way he inspired me. May eternal light shine upon him.

Jack Fishstrom

23 avril , 2021

I want to express my sincerest sympathies to Luis' close family, extended family, other loved ones, and dear friends who cared for him, relied on him, and benefitted from his life and deeds. I know everyone will miss him immensely. Your loss is my loss. He was my colleague and co-instructor in the Aerospace Department at the University of Michigan. We taught one undergraduate course, Aerospace 305, together many, many times. As colleagues, we came up with some new ideas, and I enjoyed working with Luis. Most importantly, we often helped students having trouble. Luis and I held many one-on-one meetings with students needing extra attention and flexibility. He and I regularly grappled with the best approach for providing help, but we usually came up with a good plan that the student followed, to ultimate success in the course, and possibly their subsequent courses, endeavors, and life projects. Luis was kind and respectful of all people, and he was easy to work with. We were teaching together when he became ill, and he was reserved about his situation. I suppose this was derived from his sense of courage and professionalism, but I wished he had told me himself, so I could have expressed my concern and friendship. I will miss him. He was a good professor, and his contribution to the College of Engineering was significant. I will use his wisdom as I continue to support and teach undergraduate engineering students. With appreciation and prayers, I wish everyone comfort and tranquility in remembrance of Luis. Most respectfully, Jack Fishstrom

Shaowu Pan

21 avril , 2021

I took Prof. Bernal's class on turbulence and viscous flow in 2015 Fall and 2016 Fall. His class on turbulence is awesome, patient, detailed. And it covers many solid details on White's viscous flow. Many others don't do that because that would take too much of their time. I remember him always had quiz on the spectrum behavior, say how would the spectrum move when viscosity changes, length changes. He had great patience in answering my questions. He always slides the eyeglass down on the middle of the nose and looks at us directly without the glasses. At that moment we know he is waiting for our "aha" feedback. I also remember taking phd prelim with him, where I embarrassingly failed even to correctly derive the boundary layer approximation (I was preparing for other questions..)! I can also see how "surprise" he was at the moment. In the summer of 2017, there is a turbulence modeling workshop at U of M. The speaker was forgetting the central limit theorem, then I spoke it out. He was sitting next to me and smiled and said: "This is how you contribute to the workshop". I will miss him greatly. My deepest condolences to the Bernal family.

Carlos Cesnik

21 avril , 2021

Dear Sara and family,

Luis was a scholar and a gentleman. He was admired and respected by all, and I have had the privilege to call him a friend. I will miss him dearly. And his presence and impact on our lives and the lives of our students will be with us forever.
Our prayers are with you. May you find the strength to overcome this moment of painful separation.

Cibele and Carlos Cesnik

Ari Porter

20 avril , 2021

Meeting Professor Bernal on a visit to the UM Aerospace Engineering department on a visit my senior year of high school convinced me to go to UM. I owe my wonderful education, friendships, and experiences to him. My condolences to the Bernal family.

Michael Muller

20 avril , 2021

Professor Bernal had a wonderful demeanor; he could push you when you needed a push, he would back off when you were doing something great. He was patient, he loved his field, and I am a better engineer through his teaching and advice. Professor Bernal was my PhD advisor. Along with Professors Pete Washabaugh and Khalil Najafi, and a few students (Babak, Zhumbo, and a few more whose names escape me), it was an incredibly productive and memorable group. From a fun night at the Grand Old Opry to long nights in the lab - we learned, we produced, and we laughed. There was the conference in DC, where a Clinique sales team had a meeting in the room adjacent to ours - we all laughed at us "geeks" and the happy group next door. Great memories. Professor Bernal will be missed. RIP.

Corey Brooker

18 avril , 2021

I will miss his infectious smile every time I walked into FXB. He was always so interested in how we as alumni were doing. Truly a gentleman and scholar. He cared for the students and was always there to help. He will be missed, but remembered always!

Jose Luiz Vargas de Mendonca

18 avril , 2021

Unsure about my academic plans, Professor Bernal was the first person I met in the Aerospace Department and who helped me shape my undergraduate studies. Even with the short contact I had with Professor Bernal, I was able to feel his willingness to help students and guide their future trajectories. I hope you can rest in peace and I would like to wish my deepest condolences to your family.