For almost two decades, William Devenport has directed the Virginia Tech Stability Wind Tunnel. 

Under his steady hand, the facility — one of the nation’s largest university-operated wind tunnels — has positioned Virginia Tech as an international leader in aeroacoustic research. And Devenport has championed the wind tunnel’s continued refinement, winning an unprecedented five prestigious Defense University Research Instrumentation Program awards from the Department of Defense. 

In addition to producing world-class research, the Crofton Professor of Engineering has emphasized the importance of community and learning. He seeks out opportunities to put advanced instrumentation in the hands of engineering undergraduates and has gone to great measures to link his research with experiential learning — even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Devenport was named an Alumni Distinguished Professor by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in recognition of his significant scholarly contributions. Receiving the 10-year appointment alongside Devenport is Leo Piilonen, a professor of physics in the College of Science. They join seven active Alumni Distinguished Professors who embody Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission through extraordinary accomplishments and scholarship in teaching, research or creative activity, and engagement.

“William’s contributions to the science of aeroacoustics and aerodynamics are equaled only by his commitment to the support and success of generations of Virginia Tech students,” said Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost. “His dedicated service to the university is reflected in both the Stability Wind Tunnel’s pioneering research he has led and the growth and academic achievement of his students.”

Devenport has spent his entire postdoctoral career at Virginia Tech, arriving in 1985 at what is now the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering (AOE) as a researcher and visiting assistant professor. After progressing through the faculty ranks, he was appointed director of the Stability Wind Tunnel in May 2004. 

While at the university, he has developed new experimental techniques to advance aeroacoustic research, while building a supportive academic community that promotes diversity. With Ricardo Burdisso, he co-invented and developed Hybrid Anechoic Wind Tunnel technology that has spawned more than a dozen similar facilities across the world. In 2014, Devenport founded the Center for Research and Engineering in Aero/hydrodynamic Technology (CREATe), an interdisciplinary research center that focuses primarily on aeroacoustics, aerodynamics, and fluid structure interaction. 

Devenport has generated more than $24 million in external research funding from sponsors including the Office of Naval Research, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and GE Power and Water. In 2007, the College of Engineering honored him with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research. 

In 2017, Devenport co-authored a widely used graduate-level textbook, “Aeroacoustics of Low Mach Number Flows,” and its updated and expanded second edition will be published this year. He is a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). And, in 2019, he received the AIAA Aeroacoustics Award, the highest professional honor in aeroacoustics.

“I am honored to be appointed Alumni Distinguished Professor. I see it as an exciting opportunity to further inspire and advance our students and faculty from a university wide perspective,” said Devenport. “I am also eager to take advantage of the larger stage that this position offers to promote Virginia Tech to the rest of the world and further advance the global profile of our remarkable land-grant university.”

Devenport, who served as AOE's assistant department head for facilities from 2008-16, has strived to enhance experiential learning opportunities for undergraduates by making innovative technologies more accessible. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Devenport obtained special permission for the Stability Wind Tunnel to operate, enabling students to virtually experience high-end laser and acoustic instrumentation as well as to interact online with scientists in the United Kingdom.

He has been consistently recognized for his innovative approach to classroom learning. In 2001, he was awarded the W.S. “Pete” White Professorship for Innovation in Engineering Education, a rotating position that he held for three years. From the College of Engineering, he has twice received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Education, and in 2015 he earned a Certificate of Teaching Excellence.

Devenport has supervised 58 graduate theses/dissertations and 10 postdoctoral scholars. In 2013, he received the university’s Excellence in Access and Inclusion Award for graduate student mentoring.

“William’s integration of aeroacoustics research and education is exemplary and is a model for the future of engineering education,” said Julie Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Dean of Engineering. “His leadership of the Stability Wind Tunnel and through CREATe has given engineering students direct access to state-of-the-art research tools.”

Devenport received his bachelor’s degree in engineering science from the University of Exeter, Great Britain, and his Ph.D. in experimental and computational fluid dynamics from the University of Cambridge, Great Britain.

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