Current Students

David Schafer -PhD

David is a graduate research assistant working on the testing and modeling of an SOFC based power generation system for the NASA CLEAN ULI project. He is from Murfreesboro, TN where he graduated valedictorian from Central Magnet School. While there, he spent most of time outside of school on the FIRST and BEST robotics teams at Central Magnet. He received his bachelors in mechanical engineering from Tennessee Tech in May of 2023. He was captain of the Baja SAE team at Tennessee Tech during his senior year and helped lead them to a 7th place endurance finish.

Previous work experience:
Vanderbilt University Visiting Research Assistant (Summer 2022):
Designed and implemented an inline flow visualization test cell on an engine dynamometer to study oil aeration and its effect on oil quality readings.
Tennessee Tech Undergraduate Research Assistant (Spring 2022)
Worked with the PPATS Lab and learned about and helped with fuel cells and the current testing set up at Tennessee Tech. Also worked on MATLAB models for transient optimization.
Tennessee Tech Supplemental Instructor (Fall 2021)
Helped students in Engr-1120 with their studies of MATLAB and held small group sessions outside of class time.

Achintya Kumar Saha -PhD

Achintya is a passionate mechanical engineer with over 6 years of experience designing and service in automotive industry. Proficient in CAD software and simulation in Ansys Fluent and MachUpX to improve the performance of aircraft. He also has experience with SOLIDWORKS, MS Office, Flovent, C, AutoCAD, Arduino, Proteus Design Suite, and MATLAB.

Research Goal:
• To design and verify zero emission & enhance Range commercial aircraft of around 150 passengers.
• Increase the range of passenger aircraft with innovative and efficient aerodynamic design with enhance safety.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Dhaka, Bangladesh
Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Mechanical Engineering, February 2013 – September 2017
Tennessee Tech University Cookeville, Tennessee, USA
Studying Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from August 2023

Andrew Ellicott -PhD

Trevor Kramer -PhD

Trevor is a graduate research assistant working on the testing and modeling of an SOFC based power generation and thermal management system for the ARPA-E REEACH and Hypersonic Thermal Management System projects. He is working toward completing his PhD in Engineering with a concentration in mechanical engineering. He also is the president of the Tennessee Tech Table Tennis Team where the team regularly competes internally and with other colleges in the region. More

Thesis Summary:

Investigating power generation and thermal management systems for use in electric aircraft through system modeling and simulation utilizing empirical testing data.

Noah Simpson -MS

Noah Simpson is a graduate student at Tennessee Tech pursuing a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. His research is on the modeling, design, build, testing, and verification of an ejector for anode off-gas recirculation in fuel cell systems under the ARPA-E REEACH project. This includes analytical modeling in MATLAB and EES, SolidWorks modeling, CFD simulation in ANSYS FLUENT, fabrication and assembly using Swagelok components, and cold testing using NI LabVIEW with a suite of sensors and controllers. The project goal is to build an ejector that can recirculate anode exhaust at a desired ratio using the incoming fuel as the driver. Also assisting with the NASA CLEAN project.

Master’s Research – Anode Off-Gas Ejector for Fuel Cell Systems
Aerodynamics – Airfoil Design and Flow Simulation
Automatic Control – PID Design and Validation
Autonomous Vehicle – Cruise Control Design and Implementation
Dynamics of Machinery – Mechanical Horse Therapy Device
Propulsion – Design and Optimization of Turbofan Jet Engine
Senior Design – Design and Validation of Fixed-Wing UAV for Cargo Transport
Thermal Design – Room Heated Air Flow; Heating Flow around Lightbulb

Education: B.S., Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Vehicle Engineering – Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville, TN

Will Meacham -MS

Previous Research Experience

Superior Graphite Bouncer Project:  Construction and testing of a hydraulic pressure system to determine the resiliency of material samples. The system was constructed with hydraulic components and controlled via a complex LabView system. Extensive knowledge of LabView was required to program the system and control it accurately.

Biodiesel Small Reactor Project:   Assisting a PhD. Candidate to conduct small scale biodiesel production runs and verify the functionality of the reactor. I was required to test different ratios of reactants and analyze the products for quality and completeness of reaction. An ultrasonic mixer was tested to determine its usefulness in the process.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Test Stand Project:   Assisting a PhD. Candidate to alter and construct a new test stand for testing of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell under pressurized conditions. This required the planning of a new stand and then using shop equipment to build the stand.


AS, Mechanical Engineering, Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN

BS, Mechanical Engineering, Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, TN

Thesis Summary:

Aircraft are being developed to be more efficient and to produce less carbon emissions. One such method being developed is to use a turbogenerator (TG) to convert Bio-LNG into electricity. This electricity will then be used to power cryogenically cooled induction motors. Semi-superconducting wire will be used to conduct the electricity to each component. A challenge of going fully electric is production of excess heat in the system. To mitigate this problem, Bio-LNG will be used as the coolant for each heat source then transported to the turbogenerator. The goal of this project is to develop a thermal management system model to analyze the viability of this proposed system. This project is supported by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E ASCEND and CABLES programs.

Jeff Webster -MS

Jeff is a graduate research assistant working on the testing and modeling of an SOFC based power generation and thermal management system for the ARPA-E REEACH project. He is working toward completing his Masters in Mechanical Engineering. He was previously co-captain of the Baja SAE team at Tennessee Tech from 2019-2021.

Previous Work Experience:

Jeff worked 9 months as a mechanical design engineer intern at SCI Technology in Huntsville, AL. While at SCI Jeff designed, fabricated, and tested components for a sUAS (small unmanned aircraft system) prototype that was designed to capture other drones under FAA part 107 with no collateral. Also in his undergrad, Jeff spent 3 years on the Tennessee Tech Baja SAE team designing and fabricating a student made off-road vehicle to compete against other university teams. His last two years on the team Jeff was co-captain and focused on drivetrain design with the continuously varying transmission (CVT) as his focus. Jeff’s last year on the Baja team he designed and built an electronically actuated CVT that was put on the Baja car and showed promise while testing.

Education: BS, Mechanical Engineering, Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville Tennessee

Byron Harrington -MS


Thesis Summary: In recent years more research is being done into stall margin effects driven by tip clearances and heat addition to the gas path.  Using historically test data, I intend to model the thermally unstable stall line and use it to drive an engine control to achieve stall free operation and improved performance in MATLAB More

Alex Tharpe -MS

Alex is from Dyersburg, Tennessee. He joined Tennessee Tech as a Mechanical Engineering student in the Honors program, getting his Bachelor’s degree in the Spring of 2023. He originally worked at Walmart unloading semi-trucks, stocking shelves, and pushing carts during school breaks for a few years. Then, he began working as an undergrad research assistant on the REEACH project under Dr. Rory Roberts in the Summer of 2022, mostly helping with maintenance on our fuel cell test stand. In the Summer of 2023, he had a 10 week internship at the NAVSEA naval base in Dahlgren, Virginia learning about the quality assurance process of Tomahawk launcher controls. He is now a Mechanical Engineering Master’s student involved with NASA’s CLEAN project. So far, his participation on this project has required him to get well acquainted with the CFD program Ansys Fluent to simulate NOx formation with a rotating jet turbine, which he describes as being “a simultaneously a fun, educational, and utterly infuriating experience.” He looks forward to using the program for more applications on the CLEAN project in the future.

Cameron Johnson – Undergraduate

Cameron is an undergraduate mechanical engineering major with a concentration in aerospace. He graduated from Sycamore High School with a 4.0 GPA and he is currently a junior at TN Tech with a 3.32 GPA. He has worked four jobs throughout his career unrelated to engineering, and he is still working at one of those four jobs while pursuing his degree. Him and two other students are working together on a project throughout this school year with some guidance from Professor Bruce Jo. He plans on implementing the experience he gains from this project into his efforts with the NASA CLEAN project that TN Tech is involved in. In the near future, he plans to get an internship over the summer of 2024 to gain valuable experience before graduating in spring of 2025. After that, he will either pursue a master’s degree or get directly involved with the aerospace industry.

Ryan Medlin – Undergraduate

Ryan is an undergraduate research assistant helping develop a literature review for the Characterization of Aircraft Contrails generated by Hydrogen-based aviation fuels. Additionally, he is helping develop highly parametric modeling strategies for system optimization and automated geometry generation.

He has 6 months of professional experience from internships in the Defense and Nuclear industries. He worked as a Mechanical Engineering Intern at Westinghouse Electric Company in Cranberry Twp, PA during Summer 2023 supporting fluid-flow analysis, engineering change requests, and technical authoring efforts. Prior to this, he worked as a Test Engineering Intern at SCI Technology, Inc. in Huntsville, AL throughout Spring 2022 supporting in-house prototyping & design efforts, improving documentation quality, and speeding up the existing test development process.

Ryan is an active member of both the Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma honor societies and has plans for graduate school in either mechanical or aeronautical engineering after graduating with a B.S. in May 2024.


B.S. Mechanical Engineering Tennessee Technological University – Cookeville, TN 2021 – 2024.

A.S. Mechanical Engineering Cleveland State Community College – Cleveland, TN 2019 – 2021

Ethan Pesterfield – Undergraduate

Ethan is an undergraduate research assistant working on the testing of SOFCs for the NASA CLEAN project. He is working toward completing his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace engineering. Ethan has worked for a total of 6 months as a Production Engineering Co-Op at DENSO in Maryville TN. While at DENSO Ethan was involved with 2 assembly line launches and supported these projects by assisting with machine set-up, overseeing repeatability studies, and designing a new quality test jig for invertor busbar TIG welding. Ethan serves as the current Chairman of Tennessee Tech’s chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. During his time as Chairman the branch has coordinated multiple guest speaking and aerospace focused events on campus, as well as co-hosting the 2023 AIAA Region 2 Student conference. He is also the former chassis section lead for Tennessee Tech’s AICHE Chem-E-Car Team; where he facilitated the team’s designing, fabrication and testing of all mechanical, structural, and electrical components for the 2022 competition car.

Morgan Pfister – Undergraduate

Morgan is an undergraduate mechanical engineering student and research assistant for the NASA CLEAN project. She has a concentration in mechatronics and is minoring in honors and science. She is also actively involved in Autonomous Robotics Club and Society of Women Engineers, and works on campus to fulfill her honors scholarship requirements. Morgan is from Waxhaw, North Carolina, where she graduated as valedictorian from Central Academy of Technology Arts enrolled in their pre-engineering pathway. Her background led her to working as an engineering intern at Consolidated Metco. Inc., the summer after her senior year in 2023. She hopes to continue gaining real-world engineering experience each summer leading up to her graduation, and potentially wants to take a year off of school to co-op.

Joel Roberson – Undergraduate

Joel is an undergraduate research assistant working on the testing of the SOFC power generation for the NASA CLEAN project. He is from Chattanooga Tennessee and is working towards a bachelors in mechanical engineering at Tennessee Tech.

Graduated Students

Nathan Butt -PhD

MS Thesis: Development and Thermal Management of a Dynamically Efficient, Transient High Energy Pulse System Model

Dissertation: Development and Thermal Management of a Dynamically Efficient, Transient High Energy Pulse System Model

Marcus Bracey – Thermal Engineer at Ball Aerospace

Dynamic Modeling of Thermal Management System with
Exergy Based Optimization

Adithya Chakravarthula – Senior Systems Engineer at Doosan Fuel Cell America, Inc.

Transient Analysis of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell/ Gas Turbine Hybrid System for Distributed Electric Propulsion

Adam Donovan – AFRL RQQ

Vehicle Level Transient Aircraft Thermal Management Modeling and Simulation

Sean Nuzum – Engineer at Booz Allen Hamilton

Aircraft Thermal Management using Liquefied Natural Gas

| Scott Eastbourn – Propulsion Operations Engineering Manager at Virgin Galactic

Scott Eastbourn, the Propulsion Operations Engineering Manager, leads Virgin Galactic’s team of engineers responsible for all aspects of the rocket motor operation for SpaceShip Two, Unity. His team oversees the propulsion system before, during, and after flight. This includes mating the rocket motor to Unity, loading final propellants, monitoring ignition and burn from Mission Control, and post-flight inspections—all at Virgin Galactic’s state of the art facility at Spaceport America in Las Cruces, New Mexico.