Brent Webb

Brent W. Webb

Karl G. Maeser Distinguished University Professor, Brigham Young University
PhD ME 1986

For his remarkable accomplishments in higher education administration and research impacts, in both academia and industry.

Brent Webb often thinks about something his Purdue PhD advisor regularly said when Webb was trying something new: “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Raymond Viskanta (1931-2021), who was a professor of mechanical engineering for 39 years, “was unafraid to attempt something new, try an approach not previously taken, submit a paper with a new finding,” Webb said. “This quote reminded me that failure is not the worst that can happen. Not trying is. This has guided me through my entire career, and I have found myself saying the same thing to graduate students over and over again.”

Now himself a professor of mechanical engineering, Webb joined Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1986, the same year he received his doctorate from Purdue. He has spent nearly half of his career in university administration, serving as executive director of the BYU Office of Research and Creative Activities, associate academic vice president for research and graduate studies, and academic vice president.

In 2017, Webb returned to full-time teaching. During the course of his career, he has been a research advisor for 30 masters, 12 doctorate, and three post-doctoral fellows. His own research centers around heat transfer and thermodynamics. He has directed more than $7 million in research activity and holds intellectual property for two software modeling systems — container glass melter and fiberglass unit melter — that have been licensed by manufacturers both in the United States and Japan. His new modeling approach for predicting spectral radiation heat transfer in high-temperature gases has been adopted worldwide.

Webb, the author/co-author of more than 300 technical papers, has devoted considerable time and talent to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), including serving as associate technical editor of the ASME Journal of Heat Transfer and co-chairing four International Symposia on Radiative Transfer. Named a fellow in 2003, he is currently chair of the Heat Transfer Division Executive Committee. He received the 2016 ASME Heat Transfer Memorial Award, which is considered the lifetime achievement award in the field of heat transfer.

Webb has lectured extensively throughout the country and abroad and is a fellow of the International Centre of Heat and Mass Transfer. In 2014, Purdue awarded him the Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award.

One of his proudest moments was when he was honored with the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award toward the end of his PhD work at Purdue.

“This award came in large part because of the intellectual curiosity, work ethic, technical rigor, resilience, and creativity that I saw in my faculty advisor and tried to emulate,” Webb said.

“My academic preparation at Purdue was extraordinary,” he continued. “I learned from committed faculty that holding students to high standards and caring deeply about them are not mutually exclusive.” While serving in the BYU administration, the university president complimented Webb’s logical, straightforward approach. “(He) said to me more than once, ‘I appreciate you because you’re a linear thinker — an engineer.’ That is the result of my Purdue education.”

Career Highlights

2022-present Karl G. Maeser Distinguished University Professor, Brigham Young University
1996-present Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University
2011-present Academic Vice President, Brigham Young University 
2005-2011 Associate Academic Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies, Brigham Young University
1997-2000 University Alumni Professor, Brigham Young University
1996-1999 Executive Director, Research and Creative Activities, Brigham Young University
1994-present Adjunct Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University
1991-1996 Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University
1986-1991 Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University


1981 BS Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University
1982 MS Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University
1986 PhD Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University