Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarships

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Ramin Modarres

Washington University at St. Louis

After graduating from Azad University's undergraduate program in mechanical engineering with high honors, Ramin received the opportunity to join the Center for Computational Mechanics at Washington University in St. Louis as a full-time Master of Science student and pursue his studies under the supervision of Professor David Peters, one of the leading minds in the field of vertical flight aerodynamics. Working for three months, they succeeded in finding a more computationally robust method for solving the potential flow equations for an optimum propeller in helical coordinates. This experience encouraged him to continue his research effort under the supervision of Prof. Peters and to ultimately go on to the Ph.D.

How did you get interested in vertical flight?

"The root of my passion about vertical flight goes back to my early years in high school when I first learned about hummingbirds. Their unique ability to fly forward, backward, sideways, straight up, and even to hover introduced the question into my mind of how human beings might use the same principles to build more efficient flying vehicles. I am passionate about the aerodynamics of vertical flight and am eager to explore new approaches in order to optimize the performance and efficiency of vertical flight machines."

What impact has receiving the VFF scholarship had for you?

"I am so honored that I was given the Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarship and am confident that I would give back to the industry a worthy return on this investment in me. It gave me a sense of recognition for a job well done and also motivated me to work even harder than I had been. Moreover, it provided financial assistance to cover tuition-related fees and other college-life expenses."

What are some of your current projects or research interests?

"I have worked on several projects that deal with the optimization of the efficiency of propellers, wind turbines, and helicopters. This work resulted in presentation of more than 9 papers at the AHS Forum, and the European Rotorcraft Forum — as well as the publication of 4 journal papers in the Journal of Wind Energy and the Journal of the AHS. The current project that I am working on is about using reduced-order, nonlinear models to investigate dynamic stall (a complicated fluid dynamics phenomenon that occurs in helicopter blades due to the rapid change of the angle of attack in forward flight or sharp maneuvers). The results of this project could have application in designing more realistic vertical flight simulators as well as safer and more efficient helicopters."

Tell us about your future plans.

"According to my fields of interest mentioned above, my resolute intention for the future is either to work in industry––or to become a research scientist at a research-based institution — and advance the boundaries of vertical flight knowledge."

Update: Ramin joined Sikorsky's Dynamics and Internal Acoustics group as a senior engineer after completing his PhD in May 2017.

What do Ramin's mentors have to say?

"Mentoring Ramin Modarres was one of the best experiences of my life. He came to Washington University as a walk-on. He had an offer for a Ph.D. position in the Netherlands; but, since he had a Green Card, he decided to take his chances and come to the United States with no funding commitments. After arriving, he asked me if he could work with me. I gave him a very difficult problem that none of my other students had been able to solve and — bam — he had the answer. So I gave him a second problem — same result — and then a third. These three solutions became his Master's thesis on the optimum propeller, powered rotor, and wind turbine with several archival papers resulting in the AHS Journal, the Journal of Wind Energy, and AIAA Conferences.

After that, Washington University gave Ramin a Ph.D. position; and he chose to continue to work with me on dynamic stall. I have never had a student with any greater work ethic, attention to detail, and ability to bring a complicated system into submission. He been able to correlate test data on very complicated dynamic stall conditions with a relative simple model. At every step of the way, his results exceeded my wildest expectations.

Ramin will soon be a U.S. citizen, and he graduates next May. The Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarship has really helped us keep his work going, even when we were between funding cycles of different grants that he was on. I will hate to see him go; but I will know that he will be very successful and will help the rotorcraft industry whether he goes in government, industry, or academia."

Prof. David Peters
Washington University in St. Louis

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