More than 300 people, including UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, filled the UCLA campus ballroom during a gala event to honor the services of Dr. Vijay K. Dhir, the dean of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Dhir, who is stepping down from the post, joined the UCLA engineering faculty in 1974, served as an interim dean in 2002, and was later appointed as dean in 2003.

During the Indian American educator’s tenure as dean, the school grew from 4,000 to 5,000 students, from 135 full-time faculty to 175, added two new buildings for research and education, and made major breakthroughs in green energy, clean water and computer technologies.

The school also gained international reputation for excellence under his guidance. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked the UCLA School of Engineering as the top engineering school among public universities in the United States, and the ninth best engineering school in the world.

Dhir, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh and his master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, completed his Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Kentucky.

In 2006, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering – among the highest honors awarded to engineers – for his work in boiling heat transfer and nuclear reactor thermal hydraulics and safety.

Since 1999, a team of researchers led by Dhir has taken part in a NASA research program to examine the effects of microgravity on boiling. In 2011, Dhir’s nucleate boiling research project became the first UCLA-led project aboard the International Space Station.

Even though he is stepping down as dean, Dhir plans to continue teaching and performing research at UCLA.

Another Indian American, Jayathi Murthy, who is presently a faculty member at the University of Texas in Austin, will assume office as the new dean (see separate story).

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Henry Samueli, a graduate of UCLA Engineering who went on to co-found semiconductor giant Broadcom Inc., lauded Dhir for his achievements. Samueli noted that Broadcom has hired hundreds of UCLA Engineering graduates over the years, and several have become top managers and innovators.

“UCLA engineers are among the best in the world,” Samueli said at the event.

Dhir, who received a standing ovation from the audience, praised his UCLA colleagues, saying he had “ridden on the shoulders of so many” to help the school achieve its stature. “I believe, I will have to take another birth to pay back all the debt I have accumulated,” he added.

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