MechE PhD student bolsters Naval Research Lab's hydrodynamics game

How did mechanical engineering PhD student Liam Magargal spend his summer vacation?

In the a manner of speaking.

As part of his 10-week internship with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Naval Research Enterprise Intern Program (NREIP), Liam helped design and build computational multiphysics models to train algorithms developed by the NRL.

"Computational multiphysics is a field of computational mathematics and physics that enables scientists and engineers to model complex phenomena, such as modeling airflow over an airplane," said Magargal. "While these tools have become indispensable in engineering design, they are often too computationally expensive to be used in many time-critical analyses."

During his time at NRL, Magargal worked under the supervision of Dr. Steven Rodriguez, an NRL research scientist who earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh in 2018. Magargal and Rodriguez share more than just an alma mater—both have done research under the supervision of Justin Jaworski, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Rodriguez guided Magargal in the development of a mathematical model for intermixing fluids using a technique called Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH). The internship introduced Magargal to new modeling techniques and mentors at NRL.

"I was drawn to NRL because of Dr. Rodriguez and his organization’s research, which involves applied mathematics and machine learning methods and how they relate to computational physics models,” Magargal said. “I had a healthy amount of freedom to explore new interests while working toward an end goal, and I was excited to build skills in new areas that will be beneficial to me throughout my career.”

Now back at Lehigh, Magargal is continuing his PhD research working on the simulation of flexible wind turbine blades in offshore environments, which is part of a collaborative effort between faculty members in Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering supported by the Department of Energy (DOE). “Liam is an excellent example of how our top students position themselves to take advantage of research and mentorship opportunities both inside and outside of Lehigh,” Jaworski said. “It is also immensely gratifying as a research supervisor to see our recent PhD graduates emerge as leaders in their field and to continue to be part of the success of the next generation of doctoral students at Lehigh."

To learn more about Liam's work with NRL, see the full article as published to the NRL Web site on March 28, 2022.