When one path in research fails, the pivot to another avenue can be an opportunity for learning and discovery. Such was the experience last summer for seven Notre Dame undergraduates who had been scheduled for internships with companies in the aerospace industry when COVID-19 caused cancellations of those programs.
Hoping to offer the students a meaningful option, Joshua Cameron, director of the Notre Dame Turbomachinery Laboratory (NDTL), reached out to a potential partner — the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.
Scott Morris, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and NDTL’s research director, volunteered to direct the students through a summer research-for-credit course. Students could continue to develop their engineering skills while working (remotely) on real-world challenges.
With the help of NDTL staff members — including turbomachinery research scientists Jeongseek Kang, Chiara Bernardini, and Ethan Perez — students engaged in projects that specifically targeted their interests and relevant NDTL research. The projects ranged from measuring displacement in a rotating rig using digital image correlation to a literature survey on supercritical carbon dioxide power cycles.
“The remote program was a great alternative to an in-person internship experience,” said senior Neil Niere. “I’m interested in jet engines, and learning more about compressors helped me see the connection to developments in research.
“Now that I’m taking a course on gas turbines and propulsion where I get to learn the design of gas turbines, I appreciate the opportunity even more as it has helped me understand how the components work simultaneously.”
Junior Ethan Hund agreed. “COVID-19 presented some unique circumstances, but that’s what engineers are trained to handle,” he said.
“This summer I was able to apply my engineering skill-set to solve unique problems and benefited a great deal from the mentoring experience.”
The students completing the summer course at NDTL were Henry Bergstrom, Lauren Falk, Katherine Fink, Ethan Hund, Neil Niere, Nandini Sadagopan, and Joseph Sutton.