Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student Participates in Prestigious Summer Institute

Ben HallsWhile interning at Orbital Technologies Corporation the summer before his senior year at the University of Wisconsin—Platteville, Ben Halls’ supervisor encouraged him to consider graduate school. He had heard promising things about the College of Engineering (CoE) at Iowa State University (ISU), so he started digging deeper to see what opportunities were available.

He reached out to Terry Meyer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at ISU, and discovered a position was open as a graduate research assistant on a multi-university research initiative (MURI) organized through the Army Research Office focused on developing cleaner and safer fuels for rockets.

Fast-forward to today, and Halls is in his third year as a full-time PhD student in mechanical engineering at ISU. He continues to work with Meyer on the MURI, researching dense spray diagnostics for near-field sprays. Because they have utilized a variety of techniques for spray measurement, Halls has also worked with Theodore Heindel, interim chair and professor of mechanical engineering, and Song Zhang, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in various lab settings.

One aspect of the project took Halls to Argonne National Labs in Illinois to use the Advanced Photon Source used to measure sprays using synchrotron X-rays. His work in a national lab setting doesn’t end there—he was also selected to participate in the Sandia National Labs 2011 Summer Institute in Livermore, California.

The Sandia Summer Institute (SSI) is an interdisciplinary research program for 20 of the top graduate students from the nation’s premier universities. The theme for the 2011 summer institute was Technology and Policy Tools for Energy in an Uncertain World. Halls’ research experience with spray diagnostics made him an ideal candidate for this exclusive, all-expenses paid opportunity, as one of the topical areas for the institute was: Measurement Uncertainty with Imaging Detectors–Focus on Optical Engine Diagnostics. The trip had many highlights, but working with some of the best and brightest scientists and graduate students in the country was Halls’ favorite part.

Halls, an alumnus of Monona Grove HS in Wisconsin has certainly has packed a lot into his time as a graduate student. Interacting with some of the top minds in the industry at some of the most preeminent facilities in the country has led to an invaluable research experience that will guide him on his next adventure.