Shift to mechanical engineering directs student toward research career

A colorful CT scan of the fluid column Joshua is standing beside can be seen on the computer screen to the right.

Joshua Drake enrolled as a PhD student in mechanical engineering even though he didn’t have an engineering background. Instead, he has a master of arts in teaching with an emphasis in science, and his bachelor’s degrees are in math and in physics. What brought Joshua to study mechanical engineering? He has enjoyed tinkering in mechanics since his youth and was seeking a practical degree with industry applications. His interest in fluid dynamics was piqued by a Discovery Channel special on the history of massive glacial lakes in Montana. Lakes as large as Lake Superior broke 10,000 years ago and released hundreds of cubic miles of water across the steppes. The resulting fluid dynamics created extensive landforms that can be seen today.

The graduate experience has been satisfying for Joshua; his coursework is engaging, and his research captivates his interest. He carried a full course load his first year, supported by a Galloway Fellowship covering his tuition and living expenses. Since that first year, a graduate research assistantship has supported Joshua, paying tuition, insurance, and a living stipend.

Joshua conducts his research in the Experimental Multiphase Flow Laboratory with Professor Ted Heindel as his major professor. Joshua has spent hundreds of hours developing CT scans of the hydrodynamics of fluidized beds in a one-of-a-kind x-ray flow visualization facility designed and built specifically for this lab. He jokes that after the hours it takes to develop a CT scan, the analysis takes five minutes.

Joshua is enthusiastic about the “phenomenal research facilities” in engineering at Iowa State and is appreciative of the financial support provided for graduate students and the research laboratories. He plans to complete his PhD within the next year and hopes to continue at Iowa State as a postdoctoral researcher.


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