Terry Conlisk - Buckeye for Life

Posted: September 1, 2016

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Professor Emeritus Terry Conlisk retired in 2015 after serving 35 years at Ohio State.  Conlisk was director of the Computational Micro and Nanofluidics Laboratory and a recognized expert in modeling and simulation of micro and nanofluidic devices, thermal sciences, electrochemistry and molecular biology.  He is author of a textbook, “Essentials of Micro and Nanofluidics with Applications to the Biological and Chemical Sciences,” published in 2013 by Cambridge University Press.

Conlisk has over 38 years of experience in modeling complex viscous fluid flows through theoretical and computational analysis of vortex driven flows.  He is the author of more than 200 publications and hundreds of technical presentations and seminars delivered throughout the country and the world.  Most recently, he has been involved in developing theoretical and computational models for lithium ion batteries.


“My legacy may be described in these words: effort, ethics and thinking…I use the phrase, “If you think, you can win.”

- Terry Conlisk


As a “Buckeye for Life,” Conlisk is passionate about Ohio State, particularly athletics, and to be more specific, football.  We asked Terry to reflect on his years of service to Ohio State, his teaching philosophy and his predictions for the football Buckeyes in the coming season.

Q: Following an impressive teaching career, what will your legacy be for next-generation engineers?

My legacy may be described in pretty much these words; effort, ethics and thinking. In my first lecture I discuss the importance of working hard and working efficiently. Ethics is the study of what is right and wrong and honesty is the bedrock of our society. Without honesty, life would be chaos. In the context of knowing what is right and wrong, I stress to students that it is my responsibility to honestly assess performance and provide an accurate grade based on that performance. In turn, I stress to them that it is their responsibility to ensure their performance is an honest representation of their work.  Lastly, I use the phrase, “If you can think, you win.”   This means that developing the ability to critically and rationally think (as opposed to memorization, for example) about a given problem will lead to a positive experience in the course, and indeed, in any professional endeavor.   

Q: MAE introduced curriculum innovations last year providing state-of-the art laboratories, new equipment, technologies and hands-on learning opportunities that are reshaping our educational environment.  How is this better preparing students to meet their full potential? 

I think the changes reflect the desire of our faculty to encourage independent thinking and learning, and organization around specific activities such as design, applications and computational experiences, rather than building on specific subjects already covered in required mechanical engineering courses.  For example, the three new categories allow students to gain experience in the solution of multidisciplinary problems within a given technical elective course; an activity they will encounter when they enter the engineering work force.

Q: Ohio State’s Football Coach Urban Meyer and Athletic Director Gene Smith introduced a systematic way of teaching leadership and mastering “emotional intelligence,” which has proven successful.  Celebrated Psychologist Daniel Goleman says it is emotional intelligence, not IQ or technical skills, that plays a role in shaping leadership abilities.

Similarly, a key feature of the revised MAE curriculum is the addition of a professional skills category to equip students with “soft” skills in order to succeed in the engineering profession.  Why do you think this is important and what would your advice be for aspiring engineering students?

All of the problems our mechanical engineers will face in the 21st century world are multidisciplinary and require critical thinking and leadership. For example, today we are constantly reminded that we need to be good stewards of the environment and we will need to find sustainable and innovative solutions to issues relating to climate change and water pollution.  Technical elective courses such as sustainability and entrepreneurship will expose students to these issues and provide them with the skills they will need to solve these problems. I would encourage students to develop the ability to think, reason and solve ill-defined problems in an efficient and timely manner. Of course, teamwork is essential in the modern mechanical engineering environment. 

Q: What’s next for you as you move into a new phase of your life and career? 

I am in the process of writing a second book on using advanced mathematical methods to solve mechanical engineering problems - designed to be a textbook for one of our mechanical engineering courses.

I am also spending more time with my wife of (soon to be) 37 years, Paulette, although she sometimes thinks it may be too much time. I have found the golf course a few times as well. In addition, both of my children live in Columbus and I have been asked often by my daughter Katie and her husband Cliff to babysit my granddaughter.  Cliff, a family dentist, has a practice in Lewis Center and my son Terry is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon working in Pickerington.  Katie, Cliff and Terry attend many OSU sporting events with me.  

Q: Drumroll:  Prediction for the football Buckeyes next season?

This year reminds me of 2014 when we had to replace many starters with players who the fans didn’t know. What happened? We were National Champions! I think we can do it again.

Category: Emeritus Faculty