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    Momentum Member Spotlight – March 2015

    AIAA Congratulates Ramesh K. Agarwal

    by Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications


    RameshKAgarwal The AIAA Member Spotlight, in preparation for the upcoming Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala on 6 May, swung to the Midwest this month, its beam falling on St. Louis and illuminating Ramesh K. Agarwal, an AIAA Fellow, and the William Palm Professor of Engineering in the department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

    Agarwal is this year’s winner of the Reed Aeronautics Award, which he will receive during the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The award honors Agarwal for his “outstanding leadership in aerospace education and research and advancing a wide range of aerospace vehicles through application of computational fluid dynamics.”

    Agarwal’s career has spanned over 35 years, and has involved work both in industry and academia. From 1978 to 1994, Agarwal worked at McDonnell Douglas, establishing a world-class group in the field of Computational Fluid Dynamics at the McDonnell Douglas Research Laboratories (MDRL). In 1990, he became the Program Director and McDonnell Douglas Fellow at MDRL. While at MDRL, Agarwal and his group worked on a variety of civilian and military aircraft programs, including the aerodynamic analysis of the wing of the MD-12 airliner, the wing and winglet integration of the C-17 “Globemaster III” military cargo plane; the horizontal tail analysis of the MD-90/91 airliner; and conducted some studies on the F-18 “Super Hornet” and the F-15 “Fighting Falcon” fighter planes, among others. In addition to the work on aircraft systems, Agarwal and his group also developed advanced aerothermodynamics CFD codes with chemical kinetics and worked with various divisions of McDonnell Douglas for simulations of the aerodynamic and propulsion flow fields of the Delta launch vehicle, Single Stage to Orbit Delta Clipper, AFE, ENDOLEAP and other hypersonic configurations. He and his group also developed CFD technology for helicopters including fuselage/rotor combination and applied it to Apache military and NOTAR civilian helicopters. His other areas of work at McDonnell Douglas and later in academia included basic and applied research in computational electromagnetics, computational acoustics, magnetohydrodynamics, multidisciplinary optimization, micro-fluidics, flow control and rarified gas dynamics.

    Agarwal left McDonnell Douglas in 1994 to join Wichita State University (WSU) in Kansas as the Sam Bloomfield Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Aerospace Engineering Department. During his short tenure of two years as department chair, he emphasized research (which increased tenfold in expenditures) and collaborative design education among various universities in Kansas. The Kansas multi-university student design teams won several FAA/NASA national design competitions. In 1996, Agarwal was appointed as Executive Director of the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) in Wichita, KS, where he established and directed the FAA Airworthiness Assurance Center of Excellence and FAA Center of Excellence for General Aviation Research, and the industry-sponsored Aircraft Design and Manufacturing Research Center. The focus of activities at NIAR was aimed at addressing the technology needs of general/business aviation industry in areas ranging from icing, noise, and composites to crashworthiness. While at the NIAR, he remained the Sam Bloomfield Distinguished Professor in the Aerospace Engineering Department at WSU.

    Agarwal joined the faculty at Washington University in 2001. Since that time he has been working in the areas related to environmentally responsible aviation and energy efficient aircraft design. In addition, in basic research he has made original contributions toward the understanding of the physical and numerical issues related to Burnett equations and generalized Boltzmann equation for computing flows in rarefied regimes. His recent work for NASA has been in the area of “Turbulence Modeling”; he has developed with his students the “Rahman-Agarwal-Siikonen” and “Wray-Agarwal” models for computing turbulent wall-bounded and free-shear flows.

    In addition to the Reed award, Agarwal’s other recent honors include the 2015 SAE International Medal of Honor, the Institution of Engineering and Technologies 2012 Heaviside Medal; the ASME’s 2011 Edwin F. Church Medal; the 2011 AIAA Thermophysics Award; the 2010 AIAA/ASEE John Leland Atwood Award; the 2009 SAE Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson Aerospace Vehicle Design & Development Award; the 2009 AIAA/SAE William Littlewood Memorial Lecture Award; the 2008 AIAA Aerodynamic Award; and the 2006 Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Award among others.

    When asked what inspired him to enter the aerospace profession, Agarwal stated: “When I was growing up in India, I was always fascinated by airplanes since early childhood. My grandfather lived in New Delhi near the ‘Palam’ Airport. Every morning I went with him for an early morning walk. We walked to the airport and saw the planes land and take off. One day he brought me a model airplane, quite an expensive gift; it was the best gift I ever received. I kept it for many years. I wish I still had it today.” Agarwal continued, “I knew that I wanted to be an engineer; my father wanted me to be a Mechanical Engineer because of employability concerns. So I ended up with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. But the moment I got the opportunity in the U.S. to study for my M.S. at the University of Minnesota and later my Ph.D. at Stanford University in Aerospace Engineering, I never looked back. I love aerospace and have never regretted being a part of this profession. I still get goose-bumps when I see such a large mass lifting itself into the sky.”

    When I asked Agarwal about his favorite career moment, he, like so many Spotlight column subjects before him, couldn’t pick just one, replying: “It is difficult to single out one ‘Eureka’ moment. My best career memory is working at McDonnell Douglas Research Laboratories in St. Louis where I had the privilege of establishing a world-class group in Computational Fluid Dynamics with the support of upper management. I handpicked most of the members of the group who contributed to the analysis and design of all categories of air and space vehicles built by McDonnell Douglas (transport and military aircraft, helicopters, missiles and launch vehicles, hypersonic space vehicles, etc.). I still cherish those exciting days. All the members of that group also feel the same way. We all became lifelong friends and still reminisce about the good old days.”

    For his peers looking to help the next generation of the aerospace community succeed, Agarwal had this advice: “Be a great mentor to the next generation because they are our future. Encourage them, motivate them and impart them all the wisdom that you have collected. There is nothing more rewarding than to see your students (children) succeed.”

    For students in college pursuing an aerospace degree, Agarwal counseled: “An Aerospace Engineering degree will give you skills that you can apply not only in the aerospace industry but also in many other industries and you will excel. Just stay focused, work hard and continue to upgrade your skills as you move forward.” When asked about advice for high school students, he responded, “Every year I see high school students and their parents who come to discuss about the pluses and minuses about pursuing a career in aerospace. Invariably, the students want to pursue the degree because they are excited about the engineering as well as glamor of the field - aerospace is cool. Nevertheless both the students and parents are concerned about employability and long-term prospects. My answer is always the same – ‘If you are passionate about it, go for it because you will excel as well as have fun. I do not know a single student who did not get a job. Most important is to choose a profession that you love so that you can achieve the pinnacle of the profession, contribute to the society and get amply rewarded.’"

    Agarwal was very humble when asked about his thoughts on being this year’s Reed Aeronautics Award recipient, replying: “It is a great honor. I am humbled to see myself in the company of true pioneers of aeronautics. This represents the highlight of my career of 40 years.”

    We concluded our talk, discussing the value of AIAA to Agarwal’s career. Agarwal thinks very highly of AIAA: “I have been member of AIAA for 35 years. I have regularly attended the Aerospace Sciences meeting in January and the Fluid Dynamics/Applied Aerodynamics/Thermophysics/CFD meeting in summer. In addition I have occasionally attended the Aeroacoustics, Guidance and Control, and Propulsion meeting. These are arguably the premier meetings in aerospace-related disciplines. My co-authors and I have shared the results of our research and learned from the work of people from all over the world. AIAA meetings have allowed me to interact and know people from all parts of the globe and it has played an important part in my professional development. I have also enjoyed being part of many technical committees and journals. I have especially enjoyed being a mentor to many students who have participated in AIAA-sponsored aircraft design competitions. I cannot imagine that I could have accomplished what I have been able to without being part of AIAA.”

    AIAA congratulates Professor Agarwal on his receipt of this year’s Reed Aeronautics Award, and thanks him for all of his contributions to the aerospace community, and for being the March 2015 AIAA Member Spotlight. We wish him the best in his continuing endeavors, and look forward to seeing his work continuing to shape the future of aerospace.