Momentum Member Spotlight – March 2011
AIAA Congratulates Dr. Darrell W. Pepper
By: Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
AIAA has selected Dr. Darrell W. Pepper for its Member Spotlight for March, 2011. Dr. Pepper is a professor of mechanical engineering at the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas. Dr. Pepper, an AIAA Associate Fellow, is a recipient of an AIAA Sustained Service Award for his “significant and outstanding long term contributions in research and education related to aerospace.”
Pepper has been involved with AIAA since his student days, joining the organization while an undergraduate student at the University of Missouri – Rolla. He submitted his first paper to AIAA in 1975, and since that time has had numerous contributions published both in AIAA conference proceedings and AIAA’s various journals. He is currently the associate editor of the Journal of Thermophysics and Heat Transfer.
In addition to his work in the publications area, Pepper has served on various TC’s within AIAA, and his contributions to both the Terrestrial Energy Systems and Thermophysics and Heat Transfer Technical Committees have been especially praised. He most recently was the program TC chair for the “Terrestrial Energy Applications and Aerospace Technology” sessions, which were offered at the 48th Aerospace Science Meeting in 2010. Since 1995, when Pepper first chaired a session for AIAA, he has chaired other conference sessions on a wide range of topics, ranging from Hypersonics and Re-Entry to FEM, BEM, and Meshless Techniques, but the bulk of his work has been focused on the field of heat transfer.
When asked why he had picked aerospace as his life’s work, Pepper noted he had two early influences – his father, who was an engineer at McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis, Missouri, and Dr. Robert Oetting, a professor he had as an undergraduate and then, as he put it, was “lucky enough to keep through my Ph.D. coursework.” Both gentlemen ignited a lifetime love of aerospace through their dedication to the field, and the joy they took in the day-to-day research and academic endeavors that the field presents.
Pepper stated that young engineers should realize that aerospace is “hard work, but that it’s the best work there is.” He counseled that today’s young engineers should not get discouraged when confronted with the temporary downturn in the economy, noting that “these things are temporary in nature, and while it may require some to leave the field of aerospace in the interim, the departure should only be temporary, and that the industry will flourish again!” Pepper stressed that the “exciting, innovative, and fun projects that the aerospace industry presents its engineers was great motivation for young people to stay in the field” and that “aerospace is one of the sectors of the economy which allows today’s young students to have an immediate impact in the field, by engaging them in stimulating research work, and allowing them to have a hand in designing and implementing technology platforms.” Pepper stressed that involvement in challenging and exciting work are what today’s students crave, and that aerospace can deliver those experiences.
When asked if he encourages young engineers to join professional societies he responded “definitely!” He went on to say that at UNLV, all engineering students are encouraged to join professional societies, because he, and the rest of the faculty, fill that such societies help students, and young engineers, cement the types of networking that are necessary in the job field, and because it allows them to learn how to construct and present academic research in a professional setting – both very important to continued learning and progress in the field. Pepper reported that “at first, younger students are skeptical of the value of professional societies, but the closer they get to graduation, and especially in their first year of work, it dawns on them that such groups are extremely valuable to them in terms of continuing to learn the skills they will need to advance in the field, in establishing the contacts which may sustain them in the field, and in giving them social and other opportunities which might not exist for them otherwise.” He urged all students and young engineers to become actively involved in their field’s society.
When asked if Las Vegas presented any outlets for creative engineering talent, Dr. Pepper noted that there are strong links between the technology used in aerospace engineering and many Las Vegas attractions - noting that the pumping technology on the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel use the same type of fluid pumping technology found on advanced air and spacecraft. Pepper noted that the proximity of UNLV to the Vegas “strip” has given many an UNVL engineering student practical work experience, perfecting their aerospace engineering skills while creating some wonderful experiences for the tourists which flock to Las Vegas every year.
Pepper also noted that his students have been creative on campus as well in areas both practical and whimsical, noting that in 1995, UNLV students created an engine which could propel a car 3,500 miles on a single gallon of gas – a record which still stands today. But, that the department also created the world’s largest Frisbee, a ten foot in diameter monster that had to be propelled by an engineering student who was also the center of the UNVL Running Rebels football team. Pepper noted that when they moved the Frisbee to exhibit at the AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Reno, Nev., the Frisbee blew off the top of the car they were traveling in, and set an unofficial world distance record for large-scale flying discs, traveling about 3,500 feet out into the Nevada desert.
Pepper concluded our talk by saying that “when you work in engineering, it’s hard to be “out of the classroom,” stressing that “new projects, ideas and opportunities are continuously presenting themselves, so there is always a challenge for an agile and hardworking mind to take up.” He reassured us that he does enjoy golfing, rafting, and piano playing as his preferred methods of relaxation, but that the aerospace field was too exciting, with so many things to explore, that he really doesn’t find himself relaxing in the traditional sense.
AIAA congratulates Dr. Darrell Pepper for his many contributions to AIAA, and for his positive and engaging outlook on being an aerospace engineer, as well as for his selection as the AIAA Member Spotlight for March 2011.