Villarini Named Next Director of IIHR

Originally Posted on: February 23rd, 2018

Gabriele Villarini poses with artwork in the Stanley Hydraulics Lab.

Gabriele Villarini has been named the next director of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering.

In its 98-year history, IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering has had only seven directors. They have been some of the giants in their field, shaping not only the institute, but also the discipline of fluids-related science and engineering.

Now we welcome IIHR’s eighth director, Gabriele Villarini. On Feb. 15, 2018, Associate Professor Gabriele Villarini will officially take his place among the likes of Hunter Rouse and John F. Kennedy. It is, he says, exciting and humbling at the same time. “Those are big shoes to fill,” Villarini says. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

Villarini is a native of Rome, Italy, and earned his PhD at the University of Iowa and IIHR. Villarini’s research record is outstanding. His recent honors include the Water Young Investigator Award and the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) James B. Macelwane Medal. In addition, Villarini was recently named an AGU Fellow.

“His remarkable achievements at this early stage of his career are an impressive predictor of his ability to lead IIHR to even greater success, and I look forward to collaborating with him in this endeavor,” says University of Iowa Dean of Engineering Alec Scranton.

In a sense, Villarini has risen through the ranks at IIHR, from graduate student to faculty member and on to associate director, interim director, and now director. “I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing what it means to be part of the IIHR family,” Villarini says. “That culture is something that I’ll work hard to protect and enhance moving forward.”

Many have noted IIHR’s special culture, but it is a difficult thing to describe. “We know what it is — we feel it,” Villarini says. “It’s the will to help each other, to go the extra mile, to be there in a supporting role, but it’s also much more than just that.”

A culture such as the one at IIHR is a rare and fragile thing, Villarini says. “It takes a lifetime to build it, and it takes a very short time to destroy it. Having learned firsthand what it means to be part of the IIHR family, I cherish and enjoy that.”

Villarini promises to devote himself to the care and nurture of IIHR, bringing to bear all his enthusiasm, passion, and energy. He does not underestimate the challenges ahead. “I have a lot to learn,” he says. “I have a big responsibility on my shoulders. This position is not something I take lightly. I know what it means.”

He adds, “It’s a big responsibility, but it’s one that I look forward to taking on.”