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Meet: Earl Duque

a picture of Earl

Research Scientist

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Who I Am
I am a Research Scientist for the US Army at NASA Ames. I work in research on aerodynamic flowfields. What that means is to study how the air around objects such as wings, propellers, and vehicles act, how the air flows around, through and under them and how they are affected. With these findings we have been able to apply our research to airfoils, helicopter rotors, fuselages and complete vehicles to make them more efficient, more capable of a broader spectrum of applications, safer, and, in many instances, faster.

What these studies have shown are in the area of the development of Navier-Stokes flow solvers that predict vortex dominated aerodynamic flowfields. Because of this work I have been able to give out this technology to working engineers within the rotorcraft industry. This helps me in directing the basic and applied research efforts that I have been coordinating.

A typical day for me now with my work for NASA Ames is to walk around and talk with the people working on the projects that I oversee. I guide and motivate them in their work. I also communicate with the various customers we have regarding computations we are working on for them. The rest of my time is taken up with building computer models of different helicopters and controlling the computations. I spend a lot of time behind the computer. It is a very rewarding profession for me.

In addition to my own research, I have supervised the work of a number of students and contractors. My responsibilities include providing vision and motivation for the research, giving technical directions, obtaining funding, and reporting the results at conferences and in journals. To further maintain leadership within my field, I serve as a peer reviewer to technical journals and societies, other national labs and universities. Just recently, I formed a collaborative research team between UC Davis, the Army, NASA and the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). The goal of this team is to analyze the aerodynamics of wind turbines by using the same computational techniques I've helped to develop for helicopters.

With my available skills and network, I successfully obtained funding from NREL that I used to purchase computers, purchase supercomputer computer time, fund one graduate student and one undergraduate assistant, and provide for sufficient travel costs. This project's success results from the integrated use of the aeronautics expertise from UC Davis, the computational skills in the Army, the facilities at NASA and the wind turbine knowledge at NREL.

My Career Path
When I was a little kid I built model rockets and airplanes. The moon landing in 1969 by the United States fascinated me as I watched it on television. Right there and then I decided that I wanted to do something with space and airplanes. My sixth grade teacher Mr. Mazaroff at Elsa Wediman High School in Vallejo had a ton of electricity and science experiments that kept me very busy. These experiments spurred on my interest of space and airplanes. I wasn't real popular in school and maybe considered myself a geek.

My grades in high school were high and in college I had a B average. I was intimidated by some of the really smart students in college. If I could change anything about my schooling it would be to have read more and become smarter through study. I graduated from UC Davis in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering, a Masters Degree from Davis in 1987 and a Ph.D. in 1995 in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in Aerodynamics from Davis.

As a child
From the age of 8 to 18 I was a paperboy. During the summer as a teenager I worked as an intern at PG&E and also worked as a Radiological Control Auditor.

I grew up in Vallejo, California, and I have two sisters and two brothers. One of my sisters is a nurse, and my other sister has a Ph.D. in American Ethnic Studies/English Literature. One of my brothers is a Naval Officer, and my other brother is an elementary school teacher with a Ph.D. in Education. Our parents encouraged our interests and career paths. Werner VonBrahn influenced my career choice as well. In the 5th grade, I saw an article about aeronautical engineering and decided right then that I wanted to pursue that kind of career. Today, I still set goals and in five years I want to be a university professor teaching engineering and doing research in wind turbine aerodynamics.

If you are going to choose a career in aerodynamics it is necessary to be good in math and have accurate science skills. Learning to write well and to communicate clearly are also important. You will not only work on your own in the aeronautics field but in teams as well. Networking is becoming more and more important in any field of expertise. Once I started working for NASA I became acquainted with several options of work that one can pursue on the career path of aerodynamics.

I will always stay in the career arena that I have chosen. I may change my application of service in the area of aerodynamics, but I will do something that relates to it. And I would not change the career path that I chose. I really enjoy what I do.


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