This is an article I didn’t want to write. My professor Cees van Rhee passed away last weekend1. This was devastating news for his family and all those who surrounded him at the TU Delft. Cees was still enjoying life, he died doing his favourite hobby: fishing. Always looking ahead, he was determined to be my promotor for my PhD. project. I know him already so long. When he was doing his PhD. project, I was graduating on my masters in the same lab. It would be fitting to be his last PhD. student. Fate has decided differently. As he was a public figure, you will receive in the news probably some factual biographies about him2. But he was so much a person to me, that I want to highlight some of his thoughts and contemplations for you.
When Cees assumed his position as dredging professor3, he set three goals to work on:
- Bring the department of dredging engineering under a single faculty
- Improve the quality of research and education
- Make the dredging community conscious of designing equipment for performance
He managed to merge the civil engineering branch and the mechanical engineering branch of the dredging engineering department as one of his first feats as new professor. The second goal can be sensed from the enormous increase in publications during his tenure4. And not only in the usual dredging literature, but also in highly regarded scientific journals. A standard he also imposed on my own PhD. project. The final goal is a real dot on the horizon and is therefore harder to achieve. He engaged with the rest of the dredging community through his numerous activities for the CEDA. Bringing his academic perspective to the industry.
In response to the drivers for dredging: population growth, transport demand and sea level rise, he saw the following challenges:
- Continuous innovation to stay ahead of the competition
- Re-allocation of labour for the manufacturing of equipment
- Understanding the dredging processes on a fundamental level
- Development of AI for supporting optimal operation
These challenges are still valid and are a sign of his visionary academic approach to dredging. Most of the research are contributing to solve these challenges. As a leader of the department of Dredging Engineering he lead his colleagues into a solid self-supporting team of specialists. I think we are still in a good position to tackle the challenges, but have to be careful to maintain this advantage.
Cees left a legacy of a high academic standard for dredging engineering. Torn away from life and so many projects ongoing, there will be a lot of loose ends to tie. And I am proud, that I can be part of it. When I approached him for my PhD. plans, he suggested to follow certain ideas that have been slumbering around, but were dormant because by now everybody uses finite element applications to study those problems. He was really happy that I came along with my old school analytic competences to pick up that gauntlet. I have some promising preliminary results already. And I am so sorry, he will never be there to enjoy the results that confirm he was onto something good.
We will all miss you. Thank you Cees.
- In Loving Memory of Prof. dr. ir. Cees van Rhee, LinkedIn
- In Loving Memory of Prof. dr. ir. Cees van Rhee, CEDA
- Over grensvlakken en het verleggen van grenzen, TU Delft
- Cees van Rhee, ResearchGate