Undergraduate Research

I was an ambitious and eager high school student which opened many doors and built the foundation for a strong research career as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia. You can read about various projects I worked on:

High Performance Computing at Northrop Grumman
Scramjet Research at UVA and NASA
Aerospace Design Project
Social Implications of Technology

Through these projects I gained skills in Linux operating systems, C programming, compressible flow, computed tomography, MATLAB, aircraft design, and team leadership.

Northrop Grumman Information Technology

I started interning at Northrop Grumman in high school.  As part of a mentorship program and senior research project, I spent a year working with Northrop Grumman’s High Performance Computing (HPC) Internal Research and Development (IRAD) group in Chantilly, Virginia. My mentor, Dr. Donald Duff, taught me about the Linux operating system, C programming, and internet protocols.

In order to actively help with the group’s ongoing research, I learned about networks for use in high performance grid computing. My task was to test two types of protocols, as well as two High-Performance extensions, to see how they affected throughput in large file transfers over a network. Using OPNET, a network modeler, I simulated the use of the different types of protocols while controlling the network environment and variables such as network traffic.  By comparing simulated results with current theories on protocol performance, the group was able to better understand the progression of congestion control and its implication on transferring large files from one cluster computer to another.

While I was interning at Northrop Grumman, my group wrote a conference publication: IEEE Abstract

Scramjet Research at UVA and NASA

Scramjets are of great interest for improved high speed flight and for cheaper, more reliable space launch vehicles. The desire for national security, the promise of economic growth, and the quest to explore a new frontier have driven the incredibly complex undertaking to develop hypersonic propulsion systems.

The summer after my sophomore year I interned at NASA Glenn in Cleveland, Ohio.  I worked in the Hypersonics Branch with Dr. Charles Trefny. My task for the summer was to analyze the UVa scramjet combustor using a control volume code called RJPA to determine if the facility could be run with higher equivalence ratio (Φ) values to provide more accurate results about the effects of certain contaminants. Through a self-paced study of compressible flow and the guidance of Dr. Trefny, I calibrated the RJPA output to match experimental combustion pressures from the UVa facility.

I presented the results of this research to the members of the Hypersonics Branch and to the other NASA interns at the end of the summer:
RTE Branch Presentation

During my junior year at UVA, I began working with Dr. Chris Goyne on a project to quantify scramjet combustion efficiency. In hypersonic propulsion systems, the air flow through the combustor is supersonic and there is a very short timeframe to mix and burn fuel before it exits the engine. The highly transient, three-dimensional nature of supersonic combustion requires that both the spatially resolved water vapor concentration and flow velocity must be known to determine efficiency. My work was part of an effort to determine water vapor concentration.

My research focused on a reconstruction method called tomography, similar to medical CT (Computed Tomography) imaging. Laser absorption spectroscopy is used to take line-of-sight measurements around a flow. These lines are reconstructed using tomography to produce a spatially resolved image of flow properties.

To optimize the tomography data collection technique, I used MATLAB to determine reconstruction error based on the number and orientation of line-of-sight measurements. I created an image of expected water vapor concentration at the tunnel exit. Then, I wrote a code that performs a radon transform on the image given specified data acquisition parameters. The resulting image is called a sinogram. Finally, the sinogram is reconstructed. The error between the original image and the reconstructed image for different data collection geometries can be plotted to optimize the experiment.

I was an author on a conference publication, and first author on a journal publication of this work:
Aerospace Sciences Meeting Abstract
Journal of Hypersonics Article

Aerospace Design Project

I was the team lead for the UVA 4th Year Aerospace Design Project.  This was a two semester course on aircraft design. During the course we created a conceptual design in response to a national NASA Design Challenge for college students. Our challenge was to create an amphibious tiltrotor for civilian operations.  Our team, pictured below, won third place!

Design Team

You can view our final report here: Aerospace Design Final Report

Social Implications of Technology Research

Technology is not created in a societal void. As engineers, we must understand the context in which our projects live and how our work might impact social dynamics, politics, and the environment.

Here is part of my senior thesis project at the University of Virginia – a paper on the implications of scramjet technology:
Weapons Systems and the Future of Space Policy