It’s not that I know him personally, but his name appears on all the e-mails from Physics of Fluids. So his election means also that the Physics of Fluids counts.
Professors elected into engineering academy
Two UCLA professors were elected into membership with the National Academy of Engineering, earning one of the highest professional distinctions for an engineer in recognition of their contributions to research, practice and education.
John Kim, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Deborah Estrin, professor of computer science and electrical engineering, were among the 65 new members and nine foreign associates elected this year.
Estrin is the first female faculty member from UCLA to be elected into the academy and one of four women elected this year. Both faculty members will join the ranks of some of the greatest innovators in the field of engineering, such as Bill Gates, who has been a member of the academy since 1996 for his development of personal computing.
From his start as a researcher with NASA and his transition to UCLA, Professor John Kim has followed his niche in the study of turbulent flows.
This is a common term to anyone who has flown on an aircraft, Kim said, but turbulence is actually everywhere.
There are turbulent flows present when driving a car and even when striking a golf ball, he added.
Kim brought up the example of Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball and sending it flying for up to 300 yards.
If the specific design of the golf ball did not have dimples and was smooth, Kim said that Woods could not even get it to 100 yards.
This is because the dimples create turbulence in the air as it flies through, allowing the air to surround it long enough to stay airborne, he said.
Without the dimples, no resistance or turbulent flow would occur, and the ball would aerodynamically come to the ground sooner, he added.
“These are unsteady and chaotic patterns,” Kim said. “It is very complex and difficult, but with the use of modern computers, full simulations of turbulent flow can be mapped to eventually design planes and wings more resistant to it.”
This will have many implications when the research gets to that point in the future where it can be applied, but the goal, Kim said, is to design an airplane wing that maximizes lift and minimizes drag.
This design will also do wonders for saving fuel and energy, he added.
This area of research has been of interest to Kim ever since he was a graduate student at Stanford University, where he received his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering.
It was then that turbulent flows began to interest him, and he realized that as computers advanced, the potential to study the topic would grow exponentially.
Kim was right, and he has been a pioneer in the development of computer simulations to study the physics of turbulent flow.
However, though he saw the implications computer technology would have on the study of turbulence, he was never an expert in computers.
“I picked up computer knowledge as I went along,” Kim said. “I was never a major in computer science, but it was always interesting to me and self-taught.”
But it is not all about the research for Kim; he said that preparing the next generation of mechanical engineers is very important to him as well.
Kim’s former graduate student, Shao-Ching Huang, said that it was the ability of Kim to stay fully focused in his work and push his students to form their own ideas tha
t really set him apart.
“At meetings, he would never say much and would get to the core issues by bypassing all the unimportant issues,” said Huang, who has a doctorate in mechanical engineering.
From back in his graduate student days, Huang said that Kim was a tough professor and had an ability to simplify some extremely complex topics.
Kim is now teaching both graduate and unde
“From my point of view, it is important for the young generations to get involved with aeromechanical engineering since they’re the future of the field,” Kim said.