Mechanical engineering alum Nathan Wagenhoffer ’19 PhD has joined the faculty of Penn State Abington as an assistant professor of engineering and computer science. 

Wagenhoffer was most recently a research scientist at CRAFT Tech, a specialist consulting and software solutions company specializing in high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. 

His current research interests include computational methods for coupling of fluid mechanics to other physics and the development and application of reduced-order physics models.

“My research attempts to create fish-schooling models that incorporate the physics of the fluid due to their swimming and social behaviors such as cooperation—drafting to save energy—or competition—trying to swim from the outside of the school to inside so they can draft,” he says. “Current computational fish models are too complex to calculate for large schools in many scenarios. My goal is to define a fish model that can be evaluated near instantly, while still characterizing swimmer metrics such as swimming gait, size, efficiency, and effect on surrounding fluid.”  

At Lehigh, Wagenhoffer was advised by Keith W. Moored and Justin W. Jaworski, both associate professors in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics, while studying the hydrodynamic and acoustic characteristics of fish swimming.

Wagenhoffer earned a BS in mathematics from Kutztown University and a BS and MS in mechanical engineering from Temple University prior to completing his PhD at Lehigh.

Alumni Spotlight: Nathan WagenhofferNathan Wagenhoffer

“A fish school is a seemingly simple group of animals moving around the sea,” says mechanical engineering alum Nathan Wagenhoffer ’19 PhD, now an assistant professor of engineering and computer science at Penn State Abington. “Once you start to ask what motivates the group motion, the true complexity reveals itself. Analysis requires understanding from many different fields to realize a physical model—bringing together fluid mechanics, applied mathematics, economics, computer science, and other disciplines.”

Wagenhoffer conducts his research exclusively with undergraduates. “Having a multidisciplinary project like this is a great motivator to learn subjects they might not see in their college career.”

Why did you decide to attend graduate school?

“I’ve had a few spectacular teachers over the years who made me interested in subjects that I previously had not cared about. That made me want to become an educator. A graduate degree is required to be a professor, so that decision was made for me. Currently, I teach several courses that I thought were the worst classes of my undergraduate education, and I am hoping to make them fun and thought-provoking, or at least make the material more understandable.”  

How did your Lehigh graduate education help set you up for success in your academic career?

“Lehigh provided a truly collaborative and collegiate environment. The people I encountered were always willing to help and never discouraging. I always try to emulate that environment, as it helped me to become the person I am today. I was also allowed to help several Lehigh undergraduate and graduate students to start their research projects. This was an invaluable experience, as it helped me to understand how other people approach a research project.”