Alicia Kim

The adventures of an engineer on sabbatical

NASA Glenn trip

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Just got back from NASA Glenn, Ohio where I spent two days talking research. It's been pretty intense but lots of really exciting ideas to move forward and it was a very successful trip.

I went up Sunday night for full two day meetings, we talked about my optimisation research and their research activities in structures and materials as well as their open source optimisation framework, OpenMDAO project.

Many new exciting ideas arose for collaborative research and I learnt a lot about material analysis techniques and nonlinear material behaviour.

Sneak peek

Sneak peek

As I was leaving for the airport after the meeting, we took a photo with a NASA Glenn researcher, Justin Gray, you can see the NASA building in the background (we're not allowed to take photos on site so this is the best I could do!).

Two flights and a traffic jam across the infamous I-64 Hampton Road Bridge-Tunnel later, I'm back at home in Newport News, VA.


Discovery and development

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Last weekend was the Memorial Day Weekend here in the US, which means Monday was a public holiday.

discoveryMy NASA host, Dr Wu and I took the opportunity to travel up to Washington DC and visited their two Air and Space Museums. They were both absolutely brilliant. The highlight was the recently retired shuttle, Discovery. It was great to see the details of the structure at least from outside and the colours of the tiles faded by the space travels and the high temperature high Mach number environment.

One of the problems we are studying is a composite design of a shuttle fuel tank and we saw how the fuel tanks are attached to the shuttle and where the load points are. This week has been all about catching up with my research at Bath as I'd been focusing on other research for the past couple of months.

One of these projects is developing an analysis capability for these composite structures. This has been a frustrating battle as we are still not getting the right results and we are not sure why. There are a couple of new possibilities that we have identified and are investigating, and I do hope we can nail down those errors soon!

Bye for now, Alicia.

A very busy couple of months

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UK to Brussels to Los Alamos

On Easter Monday, I flew back to the UK.  There was an important meeting I had to attend for a European research project in Brussels so I returned to Bath a week early to prepare first.  It was a very intensive week at the end of which I flew out to Brussels for one day, then returned to NASA Langley for three days.

I spent some time during those three days to develop some ideas for modelling nano materials with researchers here and this was great fun and a very exciting development.

Hawaii conference

viewI then flew out to Hawaii for a conference.  The conference was AIAA Structures, Structural Dynamics and Materials, and this is a conference I attend regularly.

This was a particularly excellent conference with lots of excellent research and opportunities to talk to many people about new ideas.  I am also involved in the AIAA Multidisciplinary Design Optimisation Technical Committee and we had a meeting at these conference to discuss the future conference and activities.

As the chair of the Education Sub-committee, I make arrangements for the upcoming Student Paper Competitions and initiate new ideas for education activities.

One exciting idea is to provide a way to share teaching experience and materials across universities internationally and this will be the new major initiative for the coming year.

I also made new contacts with NASA Glenn, Vanderbilt University, Sandia National Laboratory, Cambridge University and Imperial College. Of course, there are the "usual" suspects that come to these meetings regularly so these conferences are excellent opportunity to catch up with old friends and it is always fun to find out their latest research interests as well as seeing how they are.

Some of my American friends were pleased to see that I am in the US and invited me to give seminars in their universities later this year, which I am looking forward to. It was a great opportunities to discuss various current and new research directions such as treatment of uncertainties, computational framework for optimisation, multi scale analysis and material design.

Island walks

iceAt the end of the conference, I had some time before my return flight and I walked up to the Diamond Head with friends. We had decided to walk from our conference hotel (Sheraton Waikiki) and I hadn't quite realised how far it was!!!  The view from the top was breathtaking and the walk was all worthwhile.

But you can see how tired I got when we got down - the Hawaiian shaved ice was the perfect reward.

Boron Nitride Nano Tubes (BNNT)


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I've been learning about Boron Nitride Nano Tubes (BNNT) which is a very cool new material being developed at NASA.

This material was first conceived and shown to be possible via computational simulation and then was synthesised in a lab. As my research develops computational simulation models, it is really exciting to see the simulations can lead a new scientific creation.

I've been talking with the scientists here at NASA that make the world's best BNNT and they have very interesting behaviour and properties that make these materials potentially very useful in many applications in space, in atmospheric flights as well as on the earth.

There's a good article with some background to this in Science Now magazine.

As this is new material, there are also many open questions that require continuing research. There are still so many things in this world that we don't know about...


Spring, seminars and dressing up!

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The first day of spring, 23 degrees and I got to wear my new summer top which I bought last weekend!

NASA seminar

Prof Chris Bowen from Bath visited and gave a seminar at NASA Langley last Friday. Following the seminar, I got to see all their state-of-the-art equipment for advanced materials research at Langley, all very cool stuff and VERY clever.

Colonial fashions...

A new look for me?

A new look for me?

In between writing papers and working on our collaborative project on energy harvesting over the weekend, we went to Colonial Williamsburg and decided that the American colonial look totally is me! The summer top I bought was not quite colonial but summery enough to brighten up my mood on the already sunny spring day.

Supersonic future?

Tomorrow morning, I am going to a seminar on the latest supersonic aircraft design. If all goes well, flying between the US and UK will no longer be the long 8 hours which would suit me very well!

Bye for now, Alicia.

Recognition for my Faculty

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Jun Zhang, Marianne Ellis and I

In my first blog post I just wanted to share how pleased I am to see the recognition given to my colleagues and I for the recent substantial grants won for our research.

The University of Bath have issed a press release to tie in with Women's History Month highlighting the research taking place, including my own.

I hope this generates a real interest for colleagues and inspires the next generation of researchers.