Faculty spotlight: Professor Datta Gaitonde

Posted: September 26, 2022

Our faculty spotlight series highlights Aerospace Research Center core and associated faculty. This month, enjoy a Q&A with Datta Gaitonde, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and director of the High-Fidelity Computational Multi-Physics Laboratory.

Question: Why did you choose your field of research?

Answer: I have always been interested in flight, and aerospace engineering had just the right blend of physics and mathematics.

Q: Describe one of your current projects.

A: My group has several projects in hypersonic flight, which is seeing resurgent interest for military and commercial purposes. One of these efforts is examining the problem of transition to turbulence on the forebody of a prototypical vehicle. When transition occurs, the vehicle experiences substantially increased heat transfer and drag, which puts a severe burden on the propulsion system. Many of the processes that trigger transition to turbulence at hypersonic speeds do not have any counterpart at lower speeds and are therefore very poorly understood. To overcome this lack of knowledge, for a project funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), my group is using high-fidelity simulations using supercomputers at the Department of Defense and the Ohio Supercomputer Center. We are processing the results with highly advanced mathematical techniques that can identify the nature of the tiny perturbations that grow rapidly to usher transition. Our results have substantially advanced the field through new discoveries on the different phases of transition and the development of turbulence.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: Working with students to come up with new ideas and insights, and ultimately seeing their growth and success as professionals is by far the most rewarding part of my job.

Q: What advice would you give to incoming graduate students?

A: Research is performed on problems that are currently poorly understood. It is crucial to continually think about what might explain perplexing phenomena, to formulate hypotheses and devise clever tests to confirm or refute them, and to place one's results in the context of existing literature. Perhaps the least appreciated aspect is to develop writing and presentation skills that effectively highlight one's research contributions.

Q: What is special about the Aerospace Research Center?

A: The ARC brings together an extraordinary breadth of experimental and computational expertise. Its facilities are world-renowned, and have repeatedly proven capable of making breakthroughs in very difficult aerospace problems.

Q: What keeps you inspired?

A: I am always inspired by the enthusiasm and achievements of our students and faculty. They have set a high bar that motivates my own efforts.

Q: Anything else you would like to share?

A: It is a privilege to be associated with ARC, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering and The Ohio State University.

Did you know there are over 20 faculty affiliated with the Aerospace Research Center? Visit our research overview webpage to learn about our areas of expertise and read more faculty spotlights.