Alumnus and biomedical pioneer David Hellums dies at 86

Alumnus David HellumsAlumnus David Hellums (B.S. ’50, M.S. ’58) recently passed away at the age of 86.

Born in Stamford Texas, Hellums earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1950 from the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at UT Austin. He spent three years as a process engineer with Mobil Oil Co., another three years as a statistical services officer with the U.S. Air Force and returned to UT Austin to earn his master’s degree in Chemical Engineering.

After completing his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Hellums began his career at Rice University in 1960. Hellums became a full professor at Rice in 1968, and from 1970 to 1976 he served as Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering. From 1980 to 1988 he was Dean of Engineering. Hellums was also an adjunct professor at Baylor and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

In 1968, Hellums became a founding member of the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at Rice, and he later served as its director for 10 years. Hellums was known worldwide for his research and insight into clinical applications in hemostasis and thrombosis. Hellums introduced engineering concepts and instruments to quantitatively measure fluid mechanics in blood. His work credited him as the first engineer to receive a Merit Research Award from the National Institutes of Health, a 10-year grant that was extended twice for a total of 20 years of funding. In 1998, he became our first alumnus to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering specifically for his contributions to biomedical engineering.

Hellums is survived by his wife, Marilyn, of Houston; his son, Mark, of New York City; and his son, Jay, of London. The Department of Bioengineering at Rice University will honor Hellums by establishing the J. David Hellums Chair in Bioengineering. 

McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 301 E. Dean Keeton, C2104, Austin, TX 78712-0287. Make a gift online.

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