Motivation: "I had the opportunity to work at NASA Langley Research Center and Texas A&M University where my overarching goal was to improve fuel efficiency of aerodynamic materials."
NASA Langley Research Center
After a successful week at the Virginia Aerospace Science & Technology Scholars (VASTS) Summer Academy in 2013, I returned to NASA Langley the following summer for an internship in the Advanced Materials and Processing Branch. My initial intern task was to catalog all the scientific equipment to help build an internal database. This would help researchers find equipment spread across four buildings much more quickly and effectively.
I also assisted my mentor, Dr. Frank Palmieri, in conducting gel permeation chromatography (GPC) on various polymers to be used eventually as a hydrophobic coating on airplanes that would improve fuel efficency. GPC determines the distribution of molecular weights of a polymer which can in turn correlate to other important properties.
My intern story was featured in the NASA Student Spotlight, which you can check out here.
Texas A&M University
At Texas A&M University, I worked in the Aerospace Engineering Department under the supervision of Dr. Sharath Giramaji as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). The goal of the project was to adapt the efficiency of flapping fins (think: fish, dolphins, whales) to lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicles. In a team of three students, I used SolidWorks to design and model a wind tunnel attachment which we could then use to correlate material structure to aerodynamic efficiency.
With the help of my team, I installed our system into the wind tunnel and performed wind tunnel tests to determine efficiency at various Reynolds numbers. We investigated materials of varying Young's Modulus and found that semi-rigid polyvinyl improves efficiency by 33% when compared to completely flexible or rigid composites. I also got to present my very first research poster and learn how to work in a team of awesome engineers.