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Remembering Dave Zimmerman

April 10, 2012     2,350 views    

Dr. David Zimmerman passed away at his home on April 10, 2012. The following are words from Dr. Dave Inman and Dr. Mo Kaouk, old colleagues of Dr. Zimmerman.


David Zimmerman was my 4th Ph.D. student and my first from the U.S. I met him whilst teaching a junior level course of 240 in System Dynamics at the University of Buffalo, my first year as an Assistant Professor. Even in that large class, he distinguished himself through his brilliance and his keen sense of humor. He sat with a group of guys who sat together, asked great questions and became known to me as the “Burrito Brothers” for reasons not polite to discuss. Dave was certain at that time to go to work for a local company (Hooker Chemical, if I recall) so resisted my attempts to recruit him to grad school. In the end, Hooker had a big lay off and he became my grad student. We flew to NASA together and secured a NASA Graduate Student Fellowship for his Ph.D. He spent many months at Langley working with Garnet Horner and Jer-Nan Juang and establishing himself with NASA even before his first academic position. He was a fabulous student and great friend during his graduate years. He helped mentor my other students and continued to keep in contact with them. When Dave graduated with his Ph.D., he had several offers, Princeton and the University of Florida. He took the job at Florida because “the people where nicer”. That was Dave, as much interested in people as he was in engineering. I watched his career develop with a great deal of pride and happiness. He was an excellent person, and excellent professional and the world is now missing a special person.


– Dan Inman

Professor David Zimmerman, a distinguished and internationally renowned researcher and leader in the field of experimental and analytical structural dynamics, passed away Tuesday, April 10, 2012. He was 51.


Professor Zimmerman was an exceptional and well-accomplished educator and researcher who has served his profession and students during a shortened 25 year career. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1982, 1984, and 1987, respectively. His first employment was with the University of Florida in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Mechanics, and Engineering Science with a tenure spanning from 1987 to 1993. While at the University of Florida, he reached the rank of Associate Professor and created the Dynamic Systems and Controls Laboratory. In the fall of 1993, Dr. Zimmerman joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering with the Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston as an Associate Professor and became a Professor in 2000. He served in several leadership roles with the Mechanical Engineering Department including Associate Chairman from 2000 to 2009 and as Interim Chairman from 2010 to 2011. At the University of Houston, he also created the Dynamic Systems and Controls Laboratory which housed four faculty members.

Dr. David Zimmerman’s research activities spanned a very broad range of technical areas, including, structural health monitoring of infrastructure, structural model validation and verification of payloads, fault detection and isolation in actively controlled structures, MEMs modeling and validation, vehicle dynamics, and tissue engineering. He authored or coauthored over 170 technical publications and received multiple teaching and research awards. He served as graduate student advisor to 12 Ph.D. and 31 M.S. students. He also mentored several junior faculty members and was involved in multiple professional activities including, journal editor, conference organization, conference session chair, conference technical committee, journal technical reviewer and professional society officer. The overwhelming consensus among his friends, colleagues, and students is that Dr. Z, as his students called him, was extremely intelligent, knowledgeable, innovative, enthusiastic, funny and open-minded that he knew how to work with people and how to bring people to work together. He unselfishly vested every effort and resource to develop his students beyond the classroom and laboratory by providing them the opportunity to attend professional conferences and symposiums. In some instances, this required him to undercut his own accommodation. Most of all, Dr. Z was a great family man and an outstanding father. He will be dearly missed by everyone that has ever dealt with him. He has definitely made some notable contributions and impacts to the world that he has prematurely left behind which will continue to live on for years to come.

Dr. Zimmerman is survived by his daughter, Taylor Zimmerman, of Houston, a sister, Sandra Gareton, of Cary, N.C., and niece Julie Gareton. Contributions may be made to the David Zimmerman Memorial Fund, 102 Grey Bridge Row, Cary, N.C. 27513 to benefit students of mechanical engineering.

God Bless You Our Dear Friend and Mentor. Rest in Peace.

– Mo Kaouk, Ph.D. (Zimmerman’s 1st PhD Student)