In Memoriam | Piet Schram

The Departmental Board of Applied Physics has been informed that P.P.J.M (Piet) Schram has deceased last week on Wednesday February 10th. Condolences were sent to his family. Dean Gerrit Kroesen tells about his scientific career and shares some personal memories about him.

photo Privécollectie

Piet Schram was born in 1934, in Edegem, Belgium. He studied theoretical physics at the TU Delft and obtained his PhD at Utrecht University in 1964. The title of his PhD thesis was 'Kinetic equations for plasmas', and he remained loyal to this subject the rest of his scientific life, actively integrating fluid dynamics and plasma physics.

During his career, he has worked for Fokker, the FOM-Institute for Plasma Physics in Jutphaas/Nieuwegein, the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching, Germany, and the University of California in Los Angeles and in Berkeley. In 1976 he became Associate Professor in Rochester, NY, and in 1972 he joined TU/e as lector, and subsequently as full professor. He delivered his valedictory lecture on his 70th birthday, on February 6th, 2004, having retired several years before that.

Many of the PhD students that Piet supervised as first or second promotor have built a successful academic career, e.g.  prof. Herman Clercx, prof. Richard van de Sanden, prof. Mico Hirschberg, and prof. Theo Schep.

After his retirement, Piet Schram remained a very much appreciated member of our department. He would show up very regularly in our buildings and continue his scientific work. He attended academic festivities up to a very high age.

I have very warm personal memories of Piet Schram. As a second year student, I attended a class that Piet was teaching at that time (Fysische Transport-Verschijnselen). The exam was quite an experience: having a one-to-one session with Piet for several hours. During my PhD, I had very deep discussions with him on the exact formulation of the Saha-equation for a two-temperature plasma. The resulting publication is still one the better cited ones.

Peace movements

Throughout his life, Piet has been actively involved in peace movements, and he has been secretary of the Scientific Bureau of the PSP: one of the political parties that have constituted the present Groen Links.

For many years after his retirement, in collaboration with Gert-Jan van Heijst and myself, Piet initiated many research proposals with NWO and the EU, that were aimed at keeping his scientific colleagues in Russia and the Ukraine 'in the air' after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recognition of these successful efforts, he was decorated by the Academies of Science of Russia and of the Ukraine.

We remember Piet as a legend on theoretical fluid dynamics, as a pioneer operating on the edge of fluid dynamics and plasma physics, and as a warm person with a truly academic spirit.

Gerrit Kroesen

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