One of the toughest–and most common–questions I get asked is, “Where are you from?” The shortest answer is that I’m originally from Arkansas. At 13, I started a journey that sixteen years, two continents, eight states, two high schools, and three universities later brings me to my present tenure as an engineer in Cambridge, MA.
My interest in science is about as old as I am. I can’t remember when I first became interested in the subject, but I grew up with a mother, who, as a science teacher, taught me about Archimedes in the bathtub, so chances are it happened early.
When I was in third grade, my class received copies of Weekly Reader with an artist’s conception of the International Space Station floating over the Earth. I turned to one of my classmates and said, “I’m going to live there someday.” With current plans to fund the ISS through 2020 at least, I’ve still got a decent chance of living up to it!
Two of my years of high school were spent overseas at the International School of Duesseldorf. My travels during that time had a profound impact on my worldview, providing me with an appreciation for other cultures and the interdependency of the world. A month spent living, teaching, and learning in rural Tanzania when I was fifteen exposed me to a world vastly different than the one I’d known up to that point, and my conviction that we all have a responsibility to improve the world for one another was born out of that and other experiences.
Engineering lets me combine my passions with my convictions, allowing me to explore and then to create something useful to mankind with it. Although I initially pursued aerospace engineering out of my interest in space, my junior year at Case Western Reserve University introduced me to fluid mechanics and aerodynamics and got me interested in learning more about how liquids and gases move and interact. After dipping my toes into the proverbial waters with a summer research project in fluid mechanics, I chose to dive headfirst into fluid mechanics for my graduate level work.
This led me in 2006 to Cornell University, where I did experimental work in turbulence. My own focus was primarily on the effects of free stream turbulence on a boundary layer (the area of a flow near a wall), but I also helped others on research related to turbulent free shear layers and the Lagrangian motion of inertial particles. In 2008, I chose to leave turbulence and return to the subject of aerodynamics, in part to pursue applications to real-world flows. I, therefore, wrote my Master’s thesis and then packed up and moved to Texas, where I became part of the stability research group and the National Center for Hypersonic Laminar-Turbulent Transition Research at Texas A&M. Since finishing my dissertation, I have moved to Cambridge, MA and taken a position there.