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MECH students intern in Japan

John Williams and Chris Wentland, both senior mechanical engineers, spent their summer interning at the Tokyo University of Science. The two Rice students were part of Professor Makoto Yamamoto’s lab.

“Professor Tayfun Tezduyar [the James F. Barbour Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Rice] told me he knew a professor in Tokyo, and I should consider working with him,” said Wentland, who wanted to study abroad, but the demands of his engineering curriculum proved too great to allow for it. “This was the only chance I’d have to do something international, so it was a great experience.”

Wentland and Williams both worked on a research project investigating numerical simulations of airfoil icing using the Explicit Moving Particle Simulation (E-MPS) method. Their work entailed writing and editing code in Fortran and then running the code to produce results.

“The models they were using were a little unrealistic,” Wentland said. “So, John and I both worked on creating new ones, that offered more accurate analysis of how the ice was building up on the craft. This sort of research can help avoid crashes, reduce risk and costs.”

The work allowed them to look at how ice forms on aircraft wings, and to discover different prediction models that would show when and how icing was happening.

“My specific investigation topic was angle of attack effects,” said Williams. “I learned how to code in Fortran, what a basic computational fluid dynamics (CFD) program looks like, how to effectively learn a totally new topic in a short period of time, and many other things. I spent a lot of time reading about the field of CFD in general, on top of just learning the specific method we used, which could be very useful in the future.”

Both Wentland and Williams credit Tezduyar with helping them obtain the internships, and emphasize the summer program gave them ample real-world experience and hands-on research. The pair had to present their findings to Yamamoto’s research group, explaining their ideas and potential solutions.

“I am extremely grateful to Dr. Tezduyar for setting up the experience and Dr. Yamamoto for accepting me into his lab,” said Williams. “I wanted to do this because I was, and still am, interested in CFD and being able to get a hands-on experience in a lab was something I could not pass up.”

In addition to rigorous lab work, Wentland and Williams said they had time to explore Japan. Both call it an invaluable and unforgettable opportunity.

“I also travelled all around Tokyo and Japan, played on a basketball team for the university, and did a ton of other fun things,” said Williams, while Wentland said he explored both Tokyo and Kyoto.

“It was a chance to really immerse myself in the culture of Japan,” he said. “This was my first visit to Asia and everything was wildly different. It was really the experience of a lifetime.”


— Holly Beretto, Engineering Communications