Old school brilliance honored

Jai Kadambi wins the Worthington Medal for designing better, lifesaving pumps

Jaikrishnan “Jai” Kadambi, PhD, professor emeritus of mechanical and aerospace engineering, received the Henry R. Worthington Medal and its $5,000 prize at the 2018 International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition. He was honored for his contributions to the design and development of pumping technologies, particularly slurry pumps for the mining and fossil fuel industry, but also lifesaving pumps used in heart surgery.

It was a fitting honor for a researcher who had open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve in 1994 and later developed pumps that can briefly substitute for the human heart.

“This is a big award, for Jai and for the department,” said Robert Gao, the Chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “He’s the expert in his field.”

Kadambi arrived at the Case School of Engineering from Westinghouse Industries in 1985 and began studying coal slurries. He developed the method to obtain information about the velocity and behavior of particles in the slurry by making the slurry transparent--utilizing refractive index matching techniques and laser-based flow visualization. Soon, he and his graduate students were working with Cleveland Clinic and NASA researchers to apply his technique to understanding blood flow through mechanical valves, artery stents and heart pumps. 

"Blood basically is a slurry," Kadambi explained at the time. "It has plasma, which is liquid, and red blood cells and platelets, which are particles."

At one point, his team set up a pulsating heart loop in the Glennan Building that mechanically simulated how blood flows through the human heart. He was also involved in developing a slurry pump flow facility.

Kadambi moved into an administrative role in 2008, becoming Associate Chair of the department, and retired last year after 33 years on Case Quad.

“He belongs to that generation that brought a lot of fame to this department,” Gao said.