The renewal award provides support for a three-year REU Site at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa (UA). The REU site will engage undergraduate students in cutting-edge research in fluid mechanics with projects implementing both computational and experimental analysis tools. This topic of study is an ideal choice for a cross-disciplinary program because fluid dynamics is highly relevant to a wide array of research areas in engineering. The field of fluid mechanics is unique in its ability to be visually captivating which makes it an excellent area of research for motivating students to pursue graduate study. Ten faculty will participate as research mentors. These faculty mentors represent the departments of Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Construction and Environmental Engineering and Chemical & Biological Engineering.

The program will include several workshops and seminars. Topics for discussion include defining the experimental method, lab safety, ethical conduct in reporting data, discussion of error analysis and how to formulate a research plan. To enhance the hands-on research experience, a variety of professional development activities have also been incorporated in the program. These include: 1) technical report writing; 2) oral presentations; 3) the application process for graduate school and preparation for taking the GRE. In addition, students will participate in several field trips including a tour to the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC), the most advanced and largest complex of flight simulation test facilities in the world and a visit to the US Space and Rocket Center.

This program incorporates and aggressive recruitment plan for attracting 50% female and other underrepresented groups as students into the program. It is the goal of this REU to expose students to a diversity of research areas, while providing a venue where students can disseminate their results and interact with other professionals in an enriching environment. One of the primary objectives of the program is that students attend and present an abstract (oral or poster) at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (APS DFD) annual conference held each year in November.

The involvement of students in exciting research in fluid mechanics enhances the likelihood that they will consider post-graduate study and broaden the base of the Nation's technical manpower.

This site is co-funded by the Department of Defense in partnership with the NSF REU program.

Project Report

Meaningful research in the area of fluid dynamics across the disciplines of Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Biological Engineering was performed by 50 undergraduates over six summers ending in 2013. Each November following their summer experience they have presented their work at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics Meeting. The REU site, located at the University of Alabama, focuses on providing students with a structured research experience, including the development of laboratory skils, training on state-of-the-art equipment (i.e. Digital Particle Image Velocimetry) as well as the cultivation of communication skills. This intense 10 week experience prepares them for future graduate study. Examples of studies performed include the application of flexible bat-like wings to micro-air vehicles, internal combustion engine studies to increase fuel efficiency, the use of magnetic particles for cancer treatment, and the bio-inspired study of shark skin scales and butterfly scales for increased swimming and flying efficiency. The benefit of this research is that is often exploratory which can lead to new discoveries with the potential to benefit society. The broader impacts of this program include enhancing and diversifying the pool of students considering a research career in engineering/sciences. The program incorporates an aggressive recruitment plan for attracting talented female and other underrepresented groups as students into the program. This was evidenced by 52% of the recruits over six years being women and/or minority students.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)
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Mary Poats
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University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
United States
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