Dominic von Terzi

15 JUNE 2020

Dominic von Terzi

Professor of Wind Energy Technology at TU Delft

Private life?
‘I was born in Germany in 1971. I met my Czech wife, Martina, while hiking in the Swiss Alps. We have three boys, Tobias, Lucas and Niklas, of 8, 7 and 3 years of age. As a kid, I collected comic books and graphic novels. Now I have my own kids and are waiting until they may get interested to start collecting them with me. I lived in Germany, the USA and the UK before moving to Delft.’

What is your favourite hobby?
‘Hiking with my family and friends. I just love being out in nature with people I care about.’

Your career in brief? 
‘Before being appointed at TU Delft in 2019, I had been the manager for Aerodynamics & Acoustics and Wind Systems & Aero Leader at GE Global Research based in Munich since 2011. My team was developing technologies and design tools in use today for onshore and offshore wind turbines and farms as well as working on aviation-related advanced technologies. Prior to GE I was a lecturer at Imperial College London and a research group leader at KIT, Germany working on fundamental aerodynamics and turbomachinery applications. I received my PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona in 2004.

Coming from aerospace engineering, I ended up by chance in wind energy. I found wind energy a very dynamic and professional environment where progress is fast and academic work can impact real life quickly. Also: I believe my work in wind helps to make the world a better place. It’s nice, when you drive around and see the modern-day wind mills, that my kids know dad has worked on. That is very rewarding.’

Career high point? 
‘When the research and development efforts of my team made it into real products that proved to contribute to the reduction in the cost of renewable energy. We had quite some pioneering successes! Wind turbine design is now much more driven by the target system and the intended application area while making good use of our improved understanding of physics and advanced digital technologies.’

Your greatest challenge at the moment? 
‘Balancing my work and private life and moving my family to Delft in times of a global pandemic. In terms of my professional life, this would be transitioning from industry to academia, i.e. the need to quickly ramp up a team from zero to critical mass. My technical challenge is to look at how wind turbines should be designed to fit our future energy system needs, giving special attention to understanding how design drivers change with the system and the fundamental physical phenomena that enable new technologies.’  

Most enjoyable aspect of work? 
‘Working on research projects with students at TU Delft. It is so refreshing to work with young, passionate people and to contribute to their technical and personal development. In industry, I worked with people in different stages of life who hadn’t a choice in selecting me as their project leader or manager. In academia, the students choose to work together with me on a thesis or project; they want to learn and improve themselves with my help. That’s motivating and rewarding on both sides.’

Why Delft? 
‘It’s perfect for me! My position at the TU builds nicely on my previous achievements in academia and in industry and allows me to create a bridge between my fundamental long-term work in aerodynamics on the one hand with, on the other hand, interdisciplinary technology development in wind energy and how it relates to aerospace engineering. Moreover, the TU’s open and direct culture and its ambition to be a global leader in sustainability resonates strongly with me. I was already familiar with Delft from my previous work including my positions in the academic association ERCOFTAC and later at GE. I visited Delft about ten years ago. Since that time, my former teams have collaborated with TU Delft on research projects. So, before joining I had a fair understanding what Delft has to offer, and what its strengths and weaknesses are.’

Best character trait? 
‘Building trust and helping others to develop to their potential. Related to that, in my past job, I was known for building high-performance teams: ones that have really taken things to the next level.’

Worst character trait? 
‘Because I don’t want to let others down, I’ve often kept on helping them even if this has impacted my private life – something I’m actively working on to improve – especially for the sake of my family.’

Key issues on the political agenda? 
‘Affordable, clean, renewable energy at any time for everyone on Earth. I’m not sure why we don’t have it yet. After all, it’s certainly possible! I am aware of the existing economical, political and social implications of such a change, but is there a sustainable alternative?’

Source of inspiration? 
‘My family: my kids take nothing for granted; they ask a lot of questions all the time.  And then there’s the fluid mechanics I see in the natural world. When I look around me – at the clouds, or even a drop of milk in my coffee cup – it all relates somehow to wind turbines.’

Personal philosophy? 
‘I often joke that I’m an “optimistic fatalist”. But there is some truth to that, as I believe that deterministic equations govern the physical world we live in and I’m a die-hard optimist. When something goes wrong, I always see possibilities to learn and grow. I always see the glass half full. I also believe one should treat others as you want to be treated yourself. A good lesson from my parents; it helps to build trust.’

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