Faculty Focus on Professor Randy Mathison
Faculty Focus introduces you to our talented scholars 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.
What is the focus of your research and why is it significant?
My research focuses on the aerodynamics and heat transfer inside of gas turbine engines. Gas turbines are critical to our transportation and energy generation infrastructure -- as jet engines for aircraft, propulsion sources for ships and as part of electrical power generation plants for peaking, combined-cycle or distributed applications. Small improvements in turbine efficiency can have a massive impact on global fuel consumption because of the large installed base that will be upgraded or replaced over time.
Many people think of gas turbines as a “mature technology” because turbines have been around for so long and are generally reliable and efficient. However, there are many revolutionary changes underway. This is an exciting time as we move from designing engines based on rules of thumb and previous experience towards physics-based design systems that build from fundamental understanding to better model the engine. The shift requires more knowledge (and computing power) but can lead to a more optimized result. At Ohio State, we have a number of unique experimental facilities that enable us to replicate scaled engine conditions and measure the flow behavior for actual engine hardware. These measurements help us better understand the physics driving the engine and provide a comparison point for improved computer models.
Why should a prospective student consider MAE?
Mechanical and aerospace engineering cover such a broad range of topics that the problem solving techniques and learning habits you develop can be applied to overcoming just about any obstacle. You may not know everything when you graduate, but you will know how to learn new concepts quickly and creatively address challenging problems. These are the skills you need to adapt to a changing engineering field or any variety of other jobs in medicine, law, or even politics. We could use an engineer as president!
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy the variety of problems that come up as part of teaching and research and having the opportunity to work together with skilled and inquisitive people to solve them.
What advice would you give students considering an engineering career?
Make the most of every opportunity you are given and every class you take. You never know how the unique experiences of your background will help you see a problem in a new light that could lead to a novel solution. Also, take every chance to get your hands dirty by going beyond a paper design to actually build your ideas.
If you were stuck on an island what three things would you bring?
Besides a GPS receiver, satellite phone and solar charging station? I think I would bring a good book, a hammock and a sun shade. Life is pretty busy right now so as long as my immediate survival is not in question, I would enjoy having an excuse to sit back, relax and listen to the ocean waves for a while—actually, I think I could enjoy watching waves roll in all day long for many days.