AIAA recognizes MechE professor’s insights and novel experimentation in the study of “unsteady aerodynamic flows and structural interactions”

Donald O. Rockwell, the Paul B. Reinhold Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics in Lehigh University’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, has been elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

AIAA recently announced its Class of 2020 Fellows, which includes 14 faculty members at universities in Australia, England, France, and the United States. According to its website, the society “confers the distinction of Fellow upon individuals in recognition of their notable and valuable contributions to the arts, sciences or technology of aeronautics and astronautics.” AIAA has nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries and 95 corporate members. It is the world's largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.

Rockwell was recognized for his “breakthrough insight into unsteady aerodynamic flows and structural interactions using novel experimental approaches and advanced image processing” as well as his “technical leadership and educational achievements.”

From 1994 to 2009, Rockwell was the editor-in-chief of Experiments in Fluids, the leading international journal for advances in experimental techniques related to fluid mechanics and aerodynamics.

“Professor Rockwell has been an excellent mentor for many young professionals, especially at Lehigh, by helping them launch their careers,” says D. Gary Harlow, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. “For many years he has been a key leader for graduate education in mechanical engineering, and he continues to be a critical member of the Lehigh community.”

Rockwell is also a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the American Physical Society, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He received the 2013 AIAA Fluid Dynamics Award for outstanding contributions to the understanding of the behavior of liquids and gases in motion as related to needs in aeronautics and astronautics.

AIAA president John Langford congratulated the newest Fellows in a press release, calling them the “best minds in the industry.” They have “earned the respect and gratitude of the aerospace community for their dedication, creativity and contribution to better understanding our world in terms of its limits and how we can push past those boundaries.”

The Fellows will be inducted during a May 19 ceremony and will also be recognized on May 20 at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

A major focus of Rockwell’s research has been the laser-based imaging of unsteady development of vortex flows that are present for a wide range of aerodynamic configurations, extending from insect flight to large-scale maneuverable aircraft. He has led the formulation of new directions of research on unsteady aerodynamic flows through three international workshops held at Lehigh and in the Washington, D.C., area, in response to invitations from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (ASOFR) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Over more than 40 years at Lehigh, Rockwell has earned international renown for illuminating the complex physics of fluid flows—from the breaking of ocean waves to the flow of blood past a catheter.

His research interests and approaches extend to other areas of applied science and engineering including vortex-induced enhancement of contaminant transport in shallow river and coastal flows, flow-induced vibration of structures in the ocean environment and components of power plant systems, and noise due to vortex- interactions in nuclear submarine systems.

He has advised about 40 PhD students, half of whom are now faculty members at universities in 10 different countries. His research within Lehigh’s Fluids Research Laboratory has been funded for decades by the National Science Foundation, ASOFR, and ONR.

Rockwell has collaborated with visiting faculty and scientists from a number of countries, including Japan, China, Australia, Germany and Turkey, who have performed research in Lehigh’s fluid mechanics labs. His research has also been funded by NASA, the Volkswagen Foundation, Lockheed-Martin, Arrow International, and Combustion Research and Flow Technology.

Donald O. Rockwell

Donald O. Rockwell, Paul B. Reinhold Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics, is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 2020 Class of Fellows.