The Team and Research

Ahmad Vasel-Be-Hagh, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Founding Director  
Mechanical Engineering Department
Tennessee Technological University

I joined Tennessee Technological University as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the founding director of the Fluid Mechanics Research Laboratory in Fall 2017, and was promoted to Associate Professor rank with Tenure in 2023! Before joining Tech, I was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Delaware (2015-2017). I received my Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Windsor, Canada, in 2015.

My research interests include engineering- and atmospheric-scale fluids mechanics, heat transfer, and thermodynamics. I teach fluid mechanics, intermediate fluid mechanics, atmospheric fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, conduction heat transfer, and turbulence. I have written and contributed to 11 successful grant proposals totaling $6 million, of which my share has been ~ $1.5 million (~25%), including an NSF CAREER award. I have published 25 journal papers and six book chapters, which have received ~ 700 citations. I have advised 13 graduate students and 22 undergraduate research assistants while serving on the advisory committee of 15 other graduate students. I have taught 11 unique courses in 26 individual sections, including directed studies. I have edited eight books and proceedings and served as a panelist on several National Science Foundation programs.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or are interested in working with FMRL.

Current Ph.D. Students

Warren Sims 
Advisor: Dr. Vasel

Warren will join us in Fall 2022 to assist us with our NSF-funded research on thermal transport processes in the atmospheric boundary layer in the presence of utility-scale solar Photovoltaic plants.  Warren, working closely with Trevor Cannon and Scott Vanderlan, leads our efforts on setting up the field campaign at the 5-MW solar plant. He is in charge of field data collection and data analysis.

Scott Vanderlan
Advisors: Dr. Vasel and Dr. Cui

Scott joined us in Summer 22. He develops high-resolution computational fluid dynamics simulations to investigate thermal transport processes within solar PV-plant canopies! Scott’s models is fed at the boundaries via the experimental data that Trevor Cannon collects at our small-scale on-campus setup. Scott also uses data measured by Trevor to validate his simulations! 

Ty Hagan
Advisor: Dr. Vasel

Ty joined us in Summer 21. He is the lead graduate student involved in our efforts to research and develop cutting-edge technology to conduct the thermal treatment of nuclear power plants’ ice condensers using IR lasers! This research, sponsored by the TVA, requires laboratory and field experiments as well as computer simulations. Ty’s research involves modeling and experimenting three-phase thermal processes. Before joining graduate school, Ty worked at FMRL as an undergraduate research assistant. Ty is skilled in CAD, design and fabrication, and experimental research.

Trevor (Daniel) Cannon
Advisor: Dr. Vasel

Trevor joined us in Fall 2020. He investigates atmospheric flows using computational fluid dynamics. Trevor is one of the graduate students involved in our NSF-funded research on thermal transport processes in the atmospheric boundary layer in the presence of utility-scale solar Photovoltaic plants. Trevor’s research includes conducting large-eddy simulations using OpenFOAM on TN Tech’s high-performance computing cluster. Trevor is also working on designing, fabricating, and instrumenting an experimental setup to obtain field data required to feed his models’ boundary conditions and validate his computational results.

Reza Nouri
Advisor: Dr. Vasel

Reza joined us in Spring 2019. He studies the aerodynamics of wind farms using large-eddy simulations and neural networks. His research is mainly concerned with controlling the direction and strength of wind turbine wakes. Reza conducts these simulations via SOWFA (a CFD solver developed by NREL) and GoogLeNet.

Current M.Sc. Students

Devin Threet
Advisors: Dr. Vasel and Dr. Pardue

Devin joined us in Spring 2020. He researches the impacts of battle damages on airplanes’ aerodynamics and flight characteristics using computational fluid dynamics. Devin employs ANSYS-Fluent to conduct his simulations. In addition, Devin assists Ty with our TVA-sponsored research from time to time. Dr. Vasel and Dr. Andy Pardue co-advise Devin.

Devin Roland
Advisor: Dr. Vasel

Devin joined us in Summer 2022. He assists the lab with the robotics aspects of our research on the thermal treatment of ice condensers of a nuclear power plant.

Current Undergraduate Research Assistants

Nathaniel Lee
Research Assistant  (Spring 2022 – present)

Nathan joined us in Spring 2022. He is in charge of maintaining the wind tunnel and other lab equipment and ensuring everything is operational and up-to-date, including the algorithms we use to operate the wind tunnel’s traverse system.

Luke Olson
Research Assistant (Fall 2021 – present)

Luke is fabricating a scaled wind turbine that allows for controlling the tip speed ratio. He also assists Ty Hagan with executing our research and development efforts for the Tennessee Valley Authorities.

Pierce Wooten
Research Assistant (Fall 2021 – present)

Pierce assists us with our research and development of cutting-edge technology to conduct the thermal treatment of nuclear power plants’ ice condensers using IR lasers!

Brian Hawkins
Research Assistant (Fall 2021 – present)

Brian assists the lab with designing and fabricating components required for our larger research projects, such as an innovative thermal drill.

Koltar Houser
Research Assistant (Fall 2021 – present)

Koltar is fabricating a thermodynamic setup that allows for a hands-on demonstration of the first law. This setup, which includes a boiler, a compressor, and a steam engine, is instrumented with temperature and heat flux sensors, allowing for the investigation of the energy balance equation. The engine runs with both air and superheated steam.

Former Graduate and Undergraduate Research Assistants

Dr. Douglas Clark
Former Ph.D. Student (2018 – 2021)

Photographs of Ash representing Combusting Particulate (From Doug’s Dissertation)

Doug  pursued his Ph.D. degree while holding a full-time position as an R&D staff member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). 

Doug’s research was concerned with preparing, verifying, and validating the formulation and solution of a model that properly described the temperature profiles of uranium in fire conditions. The goal was to support a-posteriori benchmarking of historical experiments. Data from this multi-physics model combined with data regression from the experiments provides a useful tool for exploring sources of potential bias in historical experiments. The approaches Doug used were augmented by visual observations and photographic evidence allowing for correlations between various phenomena, independent of whether or not that specific phenomena were part of the validated model. In this manner, the validated model was a tool for a-posteriori benchmarking, and not a model designed to replicate the experimental output exactly for any specific experiment.

Michael Hackler
Former M.Sc. Student (2020 – 2021)

Michael researched the impact of Reynolds number and structural characteristics on amplitude and frequency response of vortex-induced vibrations.

Mike discovered something very cool about vortex-induced vibrations of circular cylinders at small Reynolds numbers and low mass ratios! He realized that keeping the Reynolds number, reduced velocity, damping ratio, mass ratio, and combined mass-damping parameter constant would not necessarily lead to the same dimensionless response amplitude and frequencies if structural parameters change!

He published a journal paper and a book chapter on his M.Sc. thesis. 

Mike is currently a Core Engineering Senior Associate at CONSOLIDATED NUCLEAR SECURITY, LLC. 

Hollee Sadler
M.Sc. Student and Research Assistant (2020 – 2021)

Hollee studied fluid-structure interactions of battle-damaged wings using our wind tunnel. In her research on a 3D printed wing section, she discovered that damage to the wing’s leading edge influenced the performance more severely. Her study also revealed that damages to the wing’s central section were worse than those occurring to the section’s tips. Hollee looked into several other parameters, including the dimensions of the damage. After receiving her M.Sc. degree, Hollee joined the University of Central Florida’s graduate school to pursue her Ph.D.!

Madison Dittner
M.Sc. Student and Research Assistant (2018 – 2020)

Madison’s research was focused on developing a numerical platform for geometry optimization. Madison developed a Genetic Algorithm that employs two commercial software packages (ANSYS and SolidWorks). Madison used TN Tech’s high-performance computing cluster to conduct CFD simulations.

The GA model assigns values to the parameters that are used to characterize the geometry of interest. SolidWorks makes the geometry and forwards it to ANSYS. Fluent module of ANSYS develops a CFD simulation for the new geometry and forwards results of interest back to the GA model. GA uses the simulation results to modify the geometric parameters. This continues until the optimal geometry is research.

Madison is currently with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Cody Long
M.Sc. Student and Research Assistant (2018 – 2020)

Cody studied flow over a finite, buoyant, flexible cylinder that was free to oscillate within the turbulent boundary layer of a solid bed. Cody’s research, which was based on computational fluid dynamics, is crucial for many engineering applications, including designing and developing a specific offshore power-generating energy storage.

After leaving Tennessee Tech, Cody first joined HOMESTEADER, INC as a Design Engineer and Environmental Health and Safety Director. He then joined Y-12 National Security Complex as an Engineer!

Ryan Nash
M.Sc. Student and Research Assistant (2018 – 2020)

Ryan researched the possibility of steering the wake of wind turbines via external guiding vanes to improve the performance of utility-scale wind farms as a whole.

Ryan designed, fabricated, and programmed the fully automated 3D traverse system currently being used at the research wind tunnel. He significantly contributed to the design and fabrication of the rest of the wind tunnel too. Ryan used our research wind tunnel to conduct his research.

He published his research findings in Energy Conversion and Management journal. Some of his results were also presented at Responsible Engineering & Living Symposium, Windsor, ON, Canada.

Currently, Ryan works at the Arnold Air Force Base Wind Tunnel Facility!

Trenton Preston 
Research Assistant (Summer 2018)

Trenton received a $4,000 CISE (Creative Inquiry Summer Experience) grant to research the potential impact of buoyant vortex rings on floating objects. He fabricated the setup and tested at at the university pool! Using this setup to investigate dynamics of ring bubbles is one of the lab’s future research plans!

Joshua Nichols 
Research Assistant (Summer 2019 – Summer 2020)

Josh assisted FMRL with computer programming and software development. Josh also assisted us with developing user interfaces for some of our sponsored projects. Josh is currently with ProviderTrust as a Software Developer. 

Adam Becklehimer
Research Assistant (Fall 2019 – Spring 2020)

Adam, a computer science major, assisted FMRL with applying Machine Learning to Mechanical Engineering applications.
Currently, Adam is with Fast Enterprises, LLC as a Data and Analytics Consultant.

Logan Unser 
Research Assistant (Spring 2019 – Fall 2020)

Logan investigated potential options for enhancing power production of vertical/horizontal axis wind turbines. His results were published in a book chapter in Complementary Resources for Tomorrow proceedings, published by Springer.

He then moved on to developing a correct way for scaling wind turbine blades for wind tunnel experiments. He published his work in Utility-Scale Wind Turbines and Wind Farms, a book by IET.

Logan’s research received two TNTech’s CISE (Creative Inquiry Summer Experience) grants, $4,000 each. He received TNTech’s 2019 Excellence in Creative Inquiry Award. Logan has experience of working at NREL as an intern.

After leaving FMRL, Logan first joined Analysis Measurement Services as an R&D Engineer. Currently, he is with QuEST Global as Controls Modeling and Simulation Engineer.

Andrew Davis 
Research Assistant (Summer 2019 – Fall 2020)

Andrew investigated aerodynamics of damaged wings by studying scaled-down models at our wind tunnel. Currently, Andrew is with Colorado State University as a Graduate Student!

Stephen Foltz
Research Assistant (Spring and Summer 2020)

Steve assisted us with developing a detailed design for an underwater power-generating energy storage concept. His research required him to conduct extensive thermodynamics, heat transfer, dynamics, and solid mechanics analyses.

Steve’s research received TN Tech’s CISE (Creative Inquiry Summer Experience) grant valued at $4,000!

Currently, Steve is with the National Aerospace Solutions as a PWT Operations Engineer.

Henry Pace
Research Assistant (Summer 2020)

Henry helped FMRL with developing dynamics and structural analyses using ANSYS. He designed a linear-to-rotary mechanism (shown below). Henry is currently a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech University.

Benjamin Cooper
Research Assistant (Summer 2018 and Summer 2021)

Ben assisted FMRL with designing and fabricating a wind turbine setup that provides torque control.

Ben worked with us back in 2018 too. Working closely with Ryan Nash, Ben helped us manufacture the three-dimensional traverse that we currently use at the wind tunnel unit!

Currently, Ben is with JTEKT North America Corporation as a Manufacturing Engineer.

William Taylor McCarty
Research Assistant (Spring and Summer 2021)

Taylor assisted FMRL with modeling thermal processes. He helped us with setting up simulations for multi-material, multi-phase flows that involve phase change.

His research received TN Tech’s CISE (Creative Inquiry Summer Experience) grant valued at $4,000!