What's My Story: Aeronautical Engineer

Dr. Ashok Gopalarathnam is an associate professor of mechanical & aerospace engineering at NCSU. As a boy he read adventure novels about a detective in Special Air Police. Today he uses wind tunnels and computer simulations to understand the physics of vortices and stalls of airplanes, helicopters, and hand-held drones.

When did you discover you wanted to be an aeronautical engineer?

Riding the Wind

From cyclists to race cars, the motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it. Those forces have both strength and direction and they can be observed and measured to predict future motion. Watch how an aeronautics engineer works with Newton's three Laws of Motion to test the best posture and helmet for a cyclist in a wind tunnel.

Explainer: Forecasting Storm Surge with Big Data

The unique shape of the North Carolina coastline makes hurricanes both frequent and devastating. It’s not only the wind and waves that cause trouble, it’s the rapid and unexpected flooding of storm surge that proceeds or follows the wind. UNC Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Science meteorologists gather information on as many as 27 pieces of data about every storm to enter into their model. With the computer model, forecasters can predict the area most likely to experience flooding. 


Surging Water Warnings

Storm surge is not a giant wave like a tsunami, but it is the gradual piling up of water along the coast. It is often the most damaging effect of a hurricane, but is not often clearly understood and it is not easy to predict. New research, and a new computer program developed by the UNC Institute of Marine Science, is helping solve the problem.

Telling Turtles Apart

Male or female? Boy or girl?

Depending on the situation, some variation of the question is pretty common. If you are talking with excited parents who are telling everyone they are expecting, it’s common to ask, “Do you know if you are having a boy or a girl?” If you meet someone in your neighborhood with a new dog, unless the dog’s name is Spike, it’s not unusual to ask, “Is your dog a boy or a girl?”

NC Museum of Natural Sciences and Smithsonian Team Discover Rare Mammal Species

On August 15, 2013, the world heard a story of mistaken identities set right. A small team of scientists on a routine research task discovered something amiss in rarely seen, decades-old museum artifacts. They had a hunch that something wild lay hidden behind established ideas and old bones.

They followed their hunch to the Andean cloud forest: a mountainous region of dense canopy-rainforest cloaked in fog. After flying, driving and hiking old mule trails into this mysterious region, they found what they spent years searching for waiting amongst the misty leaves.