Pennsylvania Undergraduate Student Learns About Flow Visualization Through FAU Research Internship

By Cheryl Halle | August 20, 2015

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Undergraduate Research Internship

Fluid dynamics and its interaction with structures play a critical role in many fields of study from engineering, aerodynamics, and robotics to biology, geophysics and architecture. Fluid visualization techniques have proven to be a valuable tool to beautifully illustrate the intrinsic behavior of fluid flows.

Samantha Parry, an undergraduate mechanical engineering student from Grove City College, PA worked under the supervision of Oscar Curet, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering for 10 weeks this summer on the design, testing and construction of a vertical soap film setup for flow visualization. In this experimental setup, a thin soapy film is flowed between two nylon threads. Using a monochromatic light source it is possible to visualize the worked motion of the fluid. In this visualization technique the optical interference between the incident light and the slight difference in the film thickness creates dark and bright regions that capture the fluid motion.

In the first set of experiments, the flow behind an array of cylinders was visualized. The motivation of this work is to understand the complex fluid interaction between water flow and mangrove roots. These visualizations demonstrate the high interaction of small and large scale vortices generated by the group of cylinders. There are many experiments that can be performed in this flow visualization setup. In the future, it will be used to understand the flow dynamics of bio-inspired propulsion systems such as undulating fins and caudal fins.


"FAU has equipped me as an engineer to contribute to the world of science and research that I could never do on my own," said Parry. "Helpful professors, machine shop assistants, electronics lab assistants, fellow students, and faculty have made this project possible. I am thankful for the opportunity that FAU has given me to be a part of this project and to contribute to something that is bigger than me."

Curet was awarded a $100,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation titled, "OCE-RIG: Hydrodynamics of Flexible Ribbon-Fin Propulsion for Highly Maneuverable Research Vessels." The grant included the support of a student research internship. Parry was accepted for the position based on her summer internship inquiry, class ranking and her advisor's recommendation.

For information about possible Summer Research Internship Opportunities please send email to