“If I work hard enough, I can solve any problem.”
What sounds like boasting is, in fact, an engineer’s matter-of-fact expression of confidence in her training and experience. Jing Gu, a junior in mechanical engineering (MECH) at Rice University, already has ideas for improving the design of aircraft, whether jet engines or the drones to be used in Martian exploration.
“In China, we are very focused on education. Children are expected to be successful. I have much to learn but I also have ideas of my own,” said Gu, a native of Beijing whose father was trained as an electrical engineer.
Thanks to Tayfun Tezduyar, the James F. Barbour Professor of MECH, Gu was able to spend her summer working as a research intern at two universities in Japan. Tezduyar, who has long-standing ties with Japanese researchers, and whose work focuses on applications of fluid mechanics and fluid-structure interactions, recommended her for the internships.
“Although I already had a very high opinion of Jing after she took my two classes, her performance in the summer internships and my technical discussions with her in Tokyo made me also reach the conclusion that she is truly talented,” said Tezduyar, who spent December through August at Waseda University in Tokyo, and April through July at the University of Tokyo.
For six weeks in May and June, Gu worked as an undergraduate research assistant at Tokyo University of Science. There she used XFlow software to perform numerical simulations of air flow around the acoustic panels in jet engines.
“The idea was to reduce the noise of the engines without losing efficiency,” said Gu, who is the only undergraduate member of Tezduyar’s Team for Advanced Flow Simulation and Modeling. She is co-advised by Tezduyar and Kenji Takizawa, associate professor of MECH at Waseda, and adjunct associate professor of MECH at Rice.
Gu spent another five weeks in June and July as a research intern working in the Department of Systems Innovation at the University of Tokyo. Her focus was analyzing the wing design of the drones to be used in the exploration of Mars, where the atmosphere is 100 times thinner than Earth’s, and is 95 percent carbon dioxide.
“My job was to design meshes for a flexible flapping wing using Pointwise software. We wanted to determine the optimal mesh,” she said.
Gu traces her interest in aircraft design to a chance encounter with a magazine devoted to airplanes when she was 14 or 15. “I was already pretty focused on physics, but reading about the airplanes changed my direction,” she said.
Back at Rice after her summer spent in Japan, Gu has resumed her role as a member of Rice Eclipse, the club devoted to rocket design and construction. “I work on nozzle performance, a small part of the overall design but very important. In engineering, the small things can be very important,” she said.
Her plans to attend graduate school were bolstered by her experiences during the internships. “They were an introduction to research for me. I have a deeper understanding of computational fluid dynamics, and a clearer direction for the future,” she said.