Faculty Focus: Professor Mei Zhuang
Each month, we highlight our talented faculty who continue to attract the best and brightest engineering students and whose insights and research keep us at the leading edge of innovation and discovery. They are leaders in engineering practice, sought after by industry, government and the broader community.
What is the focus of your research and why is it significant?
My primary research interests are in the areas of aerodynamic drag and noise reduction. A main focus of my research is improving performance for vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs). VAWTs are usually smaller, quieter and less sensitive to the wind direction compared to traditional horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs). Thus they are a promising solution for the use of renewable energy in residential areas. However, VAWTs are less efficient and the power output of VAWTs is substantially affected by the phenomenon of dynamic stall induced by variation in angle of attack of rotating blades, especially at low tip speed ratios. Our study is to investigate the prospects for improvement in turbine blade design for a typical H-type VAWT. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analyses are used to simulate the flow fields around the turbine blades. The outcomes of the study would help improve the design and performance of small-scale VAWTs and promote their use in urban and suburban environments.
Why should a prospective student consider Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering? What skills or background do you look for in a prospective student?
The Aerospace industry is one of the most advanced industries in America and the world. Our graduates have opportunities to work in cutting-edge technology and with national and international companies. With the breadth and depth of education provided by our aerospace program, students become versatile engineers. They are highly sought after by industries including aerospace, automotive, renewable energy, government agencies, and academic institutions.
We are looking for students with the academic ability and potential to succeed in our aerospace program. In addition to having strong fundamental knowledge of mathematics and physics, students should be enthusiastic about learning the subject and not be just interested in the degree at the end.
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy teaching and mentoring students. It is rewarding to watch them mature and succeed in their endeavors.
What advice would you give students considering an engineering career?
All engineering majors require rigorous fundamental and technical coursework. Students need to be mentally prepared and enthusiastic about studying engineering for the next few years. Although technical competency is paramount, it is also important to develop and enhance good communication and teamwork skills. Furthermore, the importance of character development at the university cannot be overlooked. Engineers are expected to place honesty and integrity as top priorities.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled to and why?
I enjoy traveling. One of the memorable places I visited was Kos, Greece. During the visit, my family stayed in the southwest part of the island. It has fewer tourists. The village was very quiet and beautiful. Every afternoon we walked to the sandy beach close to our rented apartment and swam in the crystal blue water. In the mornings, the roosters crowing reminded me of my childhood, raising chickens in Beijing. The traditional Greek food from the local restaurants was delicious, with the sounds of a live music performance serenading in the background.