Luis P. Bernal

June 22, 1949April 7, 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 so that he could study at the 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 for the Bernal family.


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Luis P. Bernal

have a memory or condolence to add?

Corey Brooker

April 18, 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

April 18, 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.

Becky Peterson

April 16, 2021

I met Luis Bernal when I first arrived at U-M in 2009. We worked together on research projects for several years. I will always remember his kindness to everyone, and the twinkle in his eyes which matched his lightning-speed wit. He always had a extra moment to talk, a quick smile, and his scientific insights as well as his humorous responses kept us all on our toes. I shall miss his presence in our College; he is gone far too soon.

Tony Waas

April 16, 2021

Luis was a dear friend and colleague! I will miss his smile, friendship and advise which I solicited during the many years we had together. Luis was a very good aerospace engineer, down to earth and always willing to help when needed. He will be sorely missed. May his soul rest in peace!

Our deepest condolences to Sara and the extended family members!

Bill Schultz

April 11, 2021

Luis was such a kind, thoughtful, gentle colleague. I really enjoyed our occasional chats. I will miss him greatly.

Harris McClamroch

April 11, 2021

Luis and I were colleagues and friends in the UM Aerospace Department, from his arrival at UM until my retirement in 2010. Although we had slightly different academic interests, I always admired his dedication to aerospace engineering, the Department, and most of all to the students whom he taught and advised. As a professor, he contributed to the Department in many ways that were not always appreciated. He will be greatly missed, but his memory will continue to live in the hearts of many of us.

Matthew Zhang

April 9, 2021

Professor Bernal was the first face I saw here at the University of Michigan. I can still recall the days when I first came to the U of M. My course credits didn't fully transformed to my U of M transcript. This left me an empty transcript, and I was frustrated. Professor Bernal kindly guided me through the professor. Under his guidance, I contacted an office at the university and got my credits ready. Later, I bombarded professor Bernal emails asking about course planning. I was a little unsure whether I should double major in Computer Science or minor in Computer Science. Professor Bernal and I sent 18 emails back and forth just to talk about what classes I should take for my first semester. I met him on 2018/09/06 to talk about my course planning personally. I couldn't remind myself what exactly was on the talk, but I am certainly grateful about how he was willing to spend time on my academic career.
I am really grateful that he was able to walked me through the most frustrating days. I ended up double majoring computer science under his advices. Professor Bernal is definitely an important part of my life here at the U of M.
I will deeply miss you. Hope you rest in peace.

Amirreza Rastegari

April 9, 2021

It was the saddest news of day. Luis was a great man, and a great teacher, and will always be remembered by generations of students that he has inspired, and by his many contributions to the field of fluid mechanics.

He was kind, and warm, but it was his generosity that keeps his memory alive till the end of time. I was always startled by his humility, his passion for teaching, his eagerness to learn, and his willingness to share everything he had learned over the years.

Four years ago, I met him in his office to ask for a letter. Having finished my PhD, I was searching for a job. Our conversation was insightful. I needed advice, and his advice, "be patient", was particularly calming and valuable to me. I am forever grateful for his help, his kindness and his generosity.

My sincere condolences to his family and friends, my thoughts and prayers are with you in this sad time, please know that I also share your sorrow, may his soul rest in peace.

Haoran Chang

April 8, 2021

I can still vividly recall the day when Professor Bernal sat down with me and helped me envision what I could do as an aerospace engineer. He was very passionate about aerospace and cared about every student. He was the one who made me, as well as hundreds (if not thousands) students, feel welcome in the aerospace department and helped me navigate scheduling when I first declared. There was one time where we sat down and had lunch with Professor Bernal at a conference room, listening to his life stories and immense passion for aerospace. You will be deeply missed by friends, students, family, colleagues and everyone in the department. My deepest condolences to the family.

Khanh Ngo

April 8, 2021

Professor Bernal was the one that I sat down with the day that I declared my major in aerospace engineering. I remember him being so encouraging and kind, and working with me to manage my study abroad credits and future course scheduling. He has impacted my life as an aerospace engineering student as well as the lives of many other students. The department will miss him dearly.