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STANFORD -- Juan Carlos Simo, professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University and a renowned expert on computational mechanics, died of cancer in Madrid, Spain, on Sept. 26. He was 42.
Simo, a native of Spain, had been on sabbatical since early 1994.
He received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1976 from the Universidad Politécnica in Madrid, and a master's three years later from Escuela de Organización Industrial, also in Madrid.
He earned another master's degree in civil engineering from the University of California-Berkeley in 1980, and a doctorate there in 1982. Simo had a postdoctoral fellowship at Berkeley, then came to Stanford as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in 1985.
He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in the spring of 1990, and in September 1993 was promoted to full professor and was named chairman of the Applied Mechanics Division of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Professor Thomas Hughes, a close friend of Simo's, has been named interim chairman of the division.
While with the division, Simo earned a reputation as a skilled teacher and researcher and mentor of students, particularly graduate students.
"We're a small, close-knit department, and Juan's role was significant," said Professor David Barnett, materials science.
Barnett described Simo as a man "who had an incredible zest for life - he was the kind of person who was fun to be around, all of the time," Barnett said.
A licensed pilot, Simo also enjoyed a variety of outdoor sports including riding motorcycles. While in Spain, Barnett said, Simo had run with the bulls at Pamplona.
"There is a deep sense of loss in the department," Barnett said. "We won't see his like again for a long, long time."
Simo was best known among his peers for research on the use of advanced computational methods to understand elastic and plastic deformations in solids. This work, Hughes said, is a blend of physical insight and advanced mathematical methodology that has wide application in engineering analysis.
Simo's most recent research focused on phase transitions in stressed solids and the numerical methods necessary to capture these transitions and their evolution with accuracy.
Initial studies using Simo's techniques have provided the first available numerical methods for accurately determining where the interface forms in a one-dimensional stressed solid and how its position evolves with time. By developing an extension of this work, Simo looked at two- and three-dimensional versions of this class of problem. He taught a beginning graduate course in finite element analysis and advanced graduate courses in theoretical and computational solid mechanics.
Simo is survived by his wife, Constance. Services are pending.
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