George Constantinescu: Rivers Run in the Family
George Constantinescu relaxes at an outdoor table on the sidewalk in Paris, sipping a cup of espresso as he browses through a book on modern art. Before long, he’ll be off to a favorite art museum. Paris feels almost like a second home, Constantinescu says. He spent a year there after graduating from the Technical University of Bucharest, and visits whenever he has the chance.
If he weren’t an engineer, Constantinescu says, he might have been an art critic — his love for art is that strong. But, of course, his first love is river engineering.
Constantinescu, an associate research engineer at IIHR, grew up in Bucharest, Romania, which was once known as “Little Paris” for its elegant architecture and sophisticated culture, before war and deprivation changed the city. When he was a child in the 1980s, Romania was a Communist country, and the economic situation was dire for many Romanians.
River Engineering is in His DNA
Constantinescu was born to a family of engineers; his mother and father were both environmental engineers, and they hoped and expected that he would follow them into the profession. Even Constantinescu’s grandfather was an engineer, more than 100 years ago. Constantinescu, who is also an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, studied engineering at a top university in Bucharest. His diploma project focused on hydraulic engineering; the faculty leader of the hydraulic group, Professor Constantin Iamandi, had spent a year at IIHR as a Fulbright Scholar, working with Hunter Rouse and John F. Kennedy. “He was very fond of Iowa,” Constantinescu says. Iamandi and Professor Andrei Damian both encouraged Constantinescu to apply to the University of Iowa and IIHR to pursue a PhD.
Constantinescu’s research continues to focus on using eddy-resolving numerical simulations to predict and understand the physics of turbulent flows. He explores how the presence of vortices and large-scale turbulence can be used to explain transport and mixing in rivers, particularly with regard to flow and local scour around hydraulic structures.
Another area of interest is stratified turbulence and, in particular, the mixing processes that occur when two or more fluids with different densities meet. With modern supercomputers, Constantinescu explains, it’s possible to apply eddy-resolving techniques that were originally developed in aerospace engineering to river engineering problems.
The Coming Revolution
He predicts the next 10 to 15 years will be “quite revolutionary” in his field. “It’s going to be quite an exciting time for research,” Constantinescu says. He is also interested in the area of eco-hydraulics, which explores the effect of flow on plants, fish, and other living organisms in natural streams. IIHR is a leader in this area, thanks to the pioneering work of Jacob Odgaard and Larry Weber on the design of fish-friendly passage structures at hydropower dams, Constantinescu says. It’s an interdisciplinary field that brings together engineers, biologists, chemists, and more. Advanced techniques in numerical modeling now make it possible to simulate almost all the processes in a natural stream, including nutrient and sediment transport, biological processes, and more — simultaneously.
Constantinescu’s keen interest in research is supported by his work as a teaching faculty member. He has developed several graduate courses in his areas of research interest, and he says teaching these classes is particularly rewarding. He also appreciates the opportunities to travel that come with being a researcher and faculty member, and he frequently travels for pleasure as well.
To Paris? Mais oui!