Professor Lorena Barba Honored by Alma Mater

March 21, 2022

She is the second woman to ever receive a Doctor Honoris Causa in the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María’s nearly 100-year history.


Lorena Barba accepting award

Photo credit: Franka Barba

Lorena Barba, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, has been awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa from her undergraduate alma mater Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María—the university’s highest honorific.

Seven individuals have received this honor in the university’s nearly 100-year history. Barba is only the second woman to receive this recognition, following Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile.

Barba, who came to GW in 2013, said she’s elated and proud to receive this recognition. 

“It is a great honor, and I’m deeply moved,” she said. “This is one of those moments in life that makes you reflect about your own history, about where you come from, and how you got where you are. This is a gift in itself.” 

The award was conferred on March 8 during a convocation ceremony that coincided with International Women's Day. 

“Professor Barba is not only an internationally recognized expert on scientific computing, with roles advising the nation via service in committees of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, but she has a long track record of innovation in technology enhanced learning and open education,” said SEAS Dean John Lach. “This played a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic as the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science faced the need to quickly pivot to remote teaching. Professor Barba was a key contributor to our success in facing this challenge.”

Barba is an expert in fluid mechanics, thermal science and energy, high-performance computing and mechanical engineering. She leads a research group in computational science and fluid dynamics, often crossing disciplinary borders into applied mathematics and aspects of computer science.

With a central interest in computational fluid dynamics, she extends her research program into other areas, driven by the motivation of using computational methods and high-performance computing in new fields. One of these is biomolecular physics, where she is developing computer methods for problems in protein electrostatics.


Inauguration Ceremony

Eugenio González, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María lauded Barba as an important agent of change in the world of science and technology and a leader for the promotion and integration of women in STEM.

Barba received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early CAREER award in 2012. Prior to joining GW, she was an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Boston University and a lecturer/senior lecturer of applied mathematics at University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

Barba has B.S. and PEng degrees in mechanical engineering from Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, and a M.S. and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, where she studied aeronautics. 

Barba was an Amelia Earhart Fellow of the Zonta Foundation, which supports women pursuing advanced degrees in aerospace engineering and space sciences. She is a 2007 recipient of the EPSRC First Grant program and a 2011 NVIDIA Academic Partner award recipient. She was appointed CUDA Fellow by NVIDIA Corporation in 2012.