Westmont Magazine A Brilliant Mind and Humble Heart
Westmont honored the late Bill Klug ’98 as Alumnus of the Year at Homecoming in October. He died tragically on June 1, 2016, at 39.
Westmont Professor Ken Kihlstrom remembers Bill as a gentle, kind person without a trace of arrogance. “Dr. Klug was an excellent student who conducted student research with two professors during his college years,” Kihlstrom says. “He stayed connected to Westmont after he graduated, attended our Summer Research Symposium each year and spoke in class occasionally.”
“Bill consistently gave his treasure and talents back to Westmont, visiting classrooms, giving guest lectures, teaching and modeling for students what it means to be a person of deep faith,” says Teri Bradford Rouse, senior director of alumni and parent relations.
Bill majored in engineering physics and enjoyed teaching and serving as a research assistant. He met his wife, Mary Elise Richter ’97, at Westmont, where she too studied engineering physics.
He earned a master’s degree from UCLA and a doctorate from Caltech and joined the faculty at UCLA in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department in 2003. He specialized in computational biomechanics and the mechanics of biological systems, such as cancer cells, holding appointments in mechanical and aerospace engineering and in bioengineering.
He quickly became a trusted and well-respected colleague, conducting life-saving research in collaboration with faculty in UCLA’s engineering, science and medical departments. He collaborated with colleagues at the David Geffen School of Medicine in running the UCLA Cardiac Modeling Group. A $4.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health funded research by Bill and others applying biomechanics to cardiology research with the goal of better understanding the electromechanics of the heart.
Bill’s previous research provided a clearer picture of the physics of cells and their organelles, which had applications for understanding the life cycles of viruses like HIV. He directed the Klug Research Group, which studied computational biomechanics, including how biological structures’ shape and mechanics affects their function. He served on numerous campus committees, reviewed academic journal articles and organized a half-dozen conferences.
Bill received a number of prestigious awards, including a 2008 National Science Foundation Career Award of $475,000 for five years and his department’s Samueli Teaching Award in 2007. The NSF award and other grants supported research by a number of doctoral and post-doctoral scholars he worked with or mentored. Westmont named him one of 75 distinguished alumni in 2012.
Bill and Mary Elise married in 1999. He joyfully shared his love for baseball, music, surfing, skateboarding, literature and science with his son, 9, and daughter, 7. Bill brought enthusiasm for learning and a sense of humor to every endeavor. He loved a good discussion and constantly sought knowledge and truth both academically and spiritually. He exemplified humility and kindness.