UD mechanical engineering alumnus wins national dissertation award
Award-winner Xiaoyi Li, left, with Andreas Acrivos, center, and Kausik Sarkar.

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10:37 a.m., Dec. 4, 2009----Xiaoyi Li, who completed his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware in 2007, has received the 2009 Andreas Acrivos Dissertation Award in Fluid Dynamics from the American Physical Society (APS).

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Li is now a senior research scientist in the Thermal and Fluid Sciences Department at United Technologies Research Center (UTRC). His thesis describes a detailed computational investigation of the dynamics of drops, the rheology of emulsions, and the mechanics of biological cells subjected to fluid flow.

Li presented the Andreas Acrivos Dissertation Talk at the 62nd annual meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics, held Nov. 22-24 in Minneapolis.

Established in 2000 to honor the outstanding contributions in fluid mechanics of Prof. Andreas Acrivos, the award recognizes exceptional young scientists who have performed original doctoral thesis work in the area of fluid dynamics. The annual award consists of $1,000, a certificate citing the accomplishments of the recipient, and an allowance of up to $1,500 for travel to attend the meeting.

“This is a very important award,” says Kausik Sarkar, associate professor and Li's dissertation adviser. “The Division of Fluid Dynamics is the most prestigious organization of fluid dynamicists working on fundamental and applied problems related to fluid flows all over the world. Members come from physics, mathematics, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, aeronautical engineering, environmental engineering, and ocean and atmospheric sciences. Therefore, every major university in the world has fluid mechanists in not just one but all of these departments.”

Previous winners of the award are from Yale, Cornell, the University of Houston, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Harvard, the Courant Institute, Stanford, and the University of California San Diego.

In making its selection, committee members noted that they were particularly impressed by the wide range of fundamental questions addressed in Li's thesis and its potential long-term impact on the field of multiphase flows. Sarkar cites one finding from the dissertation -- the sign change in effective normal stress differences due to flow inertia in an sheared emulsion -- as an unexpected and major fundamental discovery in the field of multiphase flows.

“Li's computational modeling expertise was a key factor in recruiting him,” says Catalin Fotache, his supervisor at UTRC. “His expertise boosts our capabilities, especially in the challenging area of multiphase flows.”

For Sarkar, seeing his former student's success is tremendously rewarding. “Students are our most important product as faculty members,” he says. “I really enjoy the part of my job that involves mentoring students and watching their evolution.”

Li earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Science and Technology of China. His dissertation was published in 2008 as a book co-authored with Sarkar, and he is the author of seven articles published in leading journals in the field. Li has also presented at numerous conferences in fluid dynamics.

In addition to the Acrivos Award, Li received the University of Delaware's Allan P. Colburn Dissertation Prize in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences in 2007.

Article by Diane Kukich

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