Mechanical engineering professor Horacio Perez-Blanco to retire in June

Joined by his wife, Terry, Horacio Perez-Blanco, center, addresses friends and colleagues at his retirement party May 8 at the Nittany Lion Inn. Credit: Chris Hennessey / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Horacio Perez-Blanco, a professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State for 27 years, will retire at the end of June.

Perez-Blanco focused his research and teaching on major energy systems and thermofluid sciences. He presented and published extensively, including the 2009 book, “The Dynamics of Energy.” In 2002, he was named a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and was a longtime member of the American Society of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineers. Among his many professional accolades is a first-place Technical Paper of the Year at HydroVision International in 2014.

Perez-Blanco developed two instructional laboratories to help students better understand energy conversion in the real-world, including the Texaco Energy Lab and the Miniature Gas Turbine Lab, where students actually operated a small gas turbine.

Looking back on his long career, Perez-Blanco reflected on what was most meaningful.

“The thrill of teaching is to try to enable people to create new technologies for the betterment of mankind,” he said. “When I see engineering that is exciting for people, when you can create good things to sell them to people, things that they want, that make them happy, that is satisfying and I tried to pass that on to my students."

“Seeing the graduate students with whom I had the privilege of working achieve positions of leadership in academia and industry has been most rewarding,” Perez-Blanco said.

One research project that was particularly satisfying for Perez-Blanco was published in 1998. Working with student Bor-Bin Tsai, the two created a vibrating film screen that greatly increased heat transfer in lithium-bromide water absorbers and spawned an associated mathematical model.

“We overcame all the major obstacles: ways to ascertain absence of non-condensables under vacuum, producing simultaneous heat and mass transfer rates of compatible magnitudes, and designing and operating a magnetically activated vibrating screen. That makes it memorable,” Perez-Blanco said.  

Perez-Blanco and his wife, Terry, a homemaker, have three children: Marcos, Jonathan and Lynn. All three are Penn State graduates. Marcos and Jonathan pursued engineering like their father, while Lynn studied food science and voice. Marcos has a doctorate in chemical engineering from Notre Dame and works for Ingersoll-Rand, Jonathan works for EQT in Pittsburgh after amassing considerable expertise and international experience with Conoco, and Lynne is honing her skills in winemaking. 

“Terry has quietly worked in the background to help everything come true,” Perez-Blanco said.

Prior to joining Penn State in 1990, he was a researcher at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for a decade. He also completed many consulting assignments for industry and governments throughout his career.

A native of Argentina, he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Buenos Aires in 1974. He still keeps in touch with a few friends from the time he was a student. He earned a doctorate and a master of science in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1979 and 1976, respectively. He keeps fond memories of his advisers at the University of Illinois, including professors S. L. Soo and B. T. Chao.

“They are not only great researchers and professors, but insightful, experienced and kind human beings,” he said.

Perez-Blanco said he will keep in touch with a few students in retirement, mostly to continue sharing ideas about philosophy, another passion of his.  

“I like to keep in touch with young people. They have an openness and freshness of ideas that I like,” he said. “When you are not aware that you cannot do things, this can be a great asset if handled properly.”

When asked about the future, Perez-Blanco said, “Many people ask me what I am going to do next. There was once a book entitled ‘Infinity in All Directions.’ Being a serious adherent to the second law of thermodynamics, I know that there is one direction that is not open to us, and that is the past. As far as the future goes, I am not certain of what shape it will take, and, beyond the necessary steps for retirement, I have made no plans. But, I know that there are many open directions, and I trust that the one I finally channel into will be thrilling.”

Last Updated October 17, 2019