In memoriam Prof. Tsutomu Mori

In October last year, Professor Tsutomu Mori passed away. I’ll always be thankful to him for many reasons which I’ll try to summarise in this text.

I was very lucky to have met Prof. Mori while I was attending The University of Manchester between 2005 and 2010. Back then, Prof. Mori was semi-retired after a long and prestigious career in Japan. He had been hired to work as a visiting professor at Manchester Uni and certainly enjoyed being active without the typical academic pressure. He had reached that heavenly point where he was being paid to research whatever he decided. He was also one of the first people who welcomed me to the research group and told me about the time he visited the National Polytechnic Institute. He was really impressed about the size and population density of Mexico City.

Professor Mori liked to be called Ben. Our Japanese colleagues were outraged by this. They were adamant he should be addressed as Mori Sensei. He had specifically asked us to call him Ben since he was past the point of requiring such formalities.

He, undoubtedly, had earned that kind of respect. His paper “Average stress in matrix and average elastic energy of materials with misfitting inclusions” published in 1973 has been cited over 9000 times according to Google Scholar. This work defined the Mori-Tanaka method, one of the most widely used formalism to estimate the elastic response of composites. It has been successfully applied to a wide range of composite families, from metallic matrix to textiles.

Photo of the author with Professor Mori.
Photo of the author with Professor Mori.

Professor Mori took the time to explain me in detail the transformation matrix between coordinate and crystal systems. I still keep his notes and homework he left me. His explanation was very helpful to develop a simple model of twinning rearrangement during deformation of titanium aluminides. I still use it in my lectures. During the time he taught me, he encouraged me to use Japanese pencils. “Best pencils in the world” he said. He brought me a box of Tombow pencils back from Japan. Recently I found two of these pencils and they are indeed delightful to use.

Tombow pencils I recently found
Tombow pencils I recently found

Lastly, I’ll always remember the advice he gave me when I had to decide whether to come back to Mexico or pursue a career in the private sector in US. He told me that even if I was going to earn significantly less in Mexico, I should come back here. He insisted that I owe that much to my country after I got a full scholarship to complete my PhD. Thanks in great part to his sound advice, I am really happy to be working here in my country.

May he rest in Peace.

End of the year

As I type this, I see people, both students and lecturers, leaving the buildings. Another year is coming to an end and the new one looks difficult and bleary. A new government means new ways to manage science and technology in this country. These new ways are not clear at the moment and fear has been spreading around the colleagues.

In spite of this, I remain confident. I have additional funding for the next two years and collaborations are improving. I also have a foundation to work on severe plastic deformation and characterisation. Namely: a 100-ton hydraulic press to ECAP, a 20-ton rolling mill to ARB and a microtester coupled with DIC to analyse deformation. In addition, I have currently 4 PhD students with a 5th starting on March and probably a post-doc at some point next year. Papers are being written and submitted. Consultancy work is steady.

While the year is coming to a close, I’m grateful for this year and remain optimistic for 2019. There are new challenges around the corner, but I believe that I’m better prepared to face them than I was a few years ago.