Roger Rydin portrait

Roger Alan Rydin, a professor emeritus in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia, passed away January 8 at the age of 88. Roger graduated as the valedictorian of Carl Schurz High School in Chicago before attending Northwestern University where he received a BS in electrical engineering in 1957. While at Northwestern, Roger pursued a coop opportunity at Argonne National Laboratory where he earned a three-year fellowship to attend any graduate school in the United States. His choice of MIT led to an MS and Sc.D in nuclear engineering and meeting the love of his life, Margaret Watkins, a recent graduate of Boston University and Concord native. During his time in Boston, Dr. Rydin apprenticed under Dr. Gordon Brownell, founder of the Physics Research Laboratory at Mass General Hospital, who, along with neurosurgeon William H. Sweet, “pioneered the use of the technology to detect, locate and treat brain tumors in human patients.”

Starting in 1964, Dr. Rydin commenced the first of many research sabbaticals with a two-year postdoc at Euratom, the European Atomic Energy Community Lab in Ispra, Italy. Joint European nuclear research began with the Euratom treaty in 1957 that called for establishment of a “Joint Nuclear Research Centre” to develop and apply “solid nuclear expertise” and make “available unique nuclear research infrastructures to positively impact economic and social development in the EU Member States and around the world.” Another sabbatical year in 1976 found the entire Rydin family in Jülich, Germany, where he pursued research on pebble bed reactors at the Kernforschungsanlage Nuclear Research Centre.  Dr. Rydin cherished opportunities to return to Ispra again in 1982, the summer of 1987 and a final visit in 1990. Following his first assignment at Euratom, he joined research efforts at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna, NY, near Schenectady before accepting a faculty position at the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science in Charlottesville in 1970.

While at UVA, Dr. Rydin authored “Nuclear Reactor Theory and Design” and wrote many articles on reactor dynamics and control, computational methods, reactor measurements and medical physics. He consulted for the United States Army Foreign Science and Technology Center (FSTC) – now the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), alongside several of his former UVA nuclear engineering doctoral students. Dr. Rydin also collaborated frequently with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He was a lifetime member of the American Nuclear Society and was on the Mathematics and Computation Division Executive Committee.

After retiring in 2000, Roger delighted in attending UVA soccer and lacrosse games, and taking on his new role as “Grumpy” for his four grandchildren. He loved to ski and was so happy for one last outing at Wintergreen at nearly 80 years old. He continued writing and presenting papers until 2018 (many of these can be found on YouTube and in the General Science Journal). Roger and Margaret enjoyed working on their antique business, where he specialized in collecting and writing about toy trains, especially American Flyer and Ives, a lifelong hobby begun at an early age due in large part to the influence of his uncle, who was an executive vice president with the Sante Fe Railroad.

Roger was preceded in death by his “remarkable” wife of 64 years, Margaret, and is survived by his children: Gail (UVA, College of Arts and Sciences, ’82, BA), Scott (UVA, College of Arts and Sciences, '83 BA; School of Engineering and Applied Science, ’89 MS), Richard (UVA, School of Engineering and Applied Science, ’89 BS and ’92 MS) and Laura (Syracuse, ’93, BS/BA). Roger was proud that his grandchildren all committed to ACC schools: the eldest, Ghislain, graduates from UVA this May with a BS in Systems Engineering at the School of Engineering and Applied Science; Amalia is studying architecture and interior design at Virginia Tech; Jane is studying biology at UNC Chapel Hill and Anna will attend Clemson University.