I first met Dr. Monika Ivantysynova in the early 2000s, at one of the European fluid power research conferences. She was a Professor of Mechatronic System Design at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg in Germany and had set up a comprehensive fluid power research laboratory there. I’d see her every couple of years at international conferences and we would always chat.
Monika certainly stood out in the room, often as the only woman amongst hundreds of (mostly graying) men. But what first caught my attention was her utter passion for fluid power. She was constantly asking questions after the technical presentations, probing into the hows and whys of a design and going deeper than anyone else in the room. Her comprehension of the fluid mechanics and physics issues at hand eclipsed most of the rest of us in the conference halls.
Her R&D lab was the subject of some friendly jealousy across Europe, as she successfully attracted major players — and major dollars — to Hamburg. Now, if I was envious of anything, it was that European universities in general were so far ahead of U.S. ones in the field of fluid power… their work with industry and research and development programs were on a different level. I wrote about it numerous times, pleading for change. So, when news broke in 2004 that Monika was leaving Europe — and coming to Purdue University as MAHA Professor of Fluid Power Systems — I knew that this was huge.
Upon starting here at Design Worldin 2010, one of the first things I did was to call Monika and ask if I could come visit her lab at Purdue and shoot some video. Not missing a beat, she told me to come as soon as I wanted, and we set a date. She was, of course, brilliant on camera, and spoke at length about her students, the projects they were working on together, and her excitement about the future of fluid power. In person, she was as intense as when she was grilling conference presenters, but always incredibly friendly and gracious.
I was so saddened to hear that Monika passed away on August 11 after a four-month battle with cancer. I last saw her in Germany in March. I’d seated myself to talk to an important speaker at the end of his talk, but the one person who beat me to him was Monika. She winked at me as she flew past me, intercepting him and firing off several questions before he could answer the first.
I’ll miss seeing her at industry events, but I’m grateful for her friendship and her many contributions to the fluid power industry. Today, the United States has a far more advanced role on the world stage of fluid power R&D than it did two decades ago — and I’m sure that a portion of that is due to Monika’s passion, drive, magnetism and leadership.
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