ME students win Department of Defense research fellowship

(May 10th, 2011)
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Ken Clark
Oliver Johnson
The United States Department of Defense has awarded National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships (NDSEG) to BYU Mechanical Engineering graduate student Ken Clark, and BYU ME graduate Oliver Johnson. 
The NDSEG Fellowship is a highly competitive fellowship offered to individuals who have demonstrated ability and special aptitude for advanced training in science and engineering. Approximately 200 students were expected to receive the award this year, out of over 2,900 applicants.
Ken Clark, from Springville, Utah, graduated from BYU Cum Laude with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Mathematics in April 2009. He received his MS in Mechanical Engineering, also from BYU, in April 2011. He has been working with Dr. Steve Gorrell, researching blade-row interactions in turbomachinery.  They have run many high-fidelity, time-accurate Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations on BYU’s supercomputer, as well as on the Air Force’s supercomputers, to study the effects of blade loading and axial spacing on transonic blade-row interactions. Clark plans to pursue a PhD at Pennsylvania State University with Dr. Karen Thole, working with turbine cooling and heat transfer in turbomachines.
“I’m very excited about receiving the fellowship,” Clark commented. “I didn’t plan on it, because I know it’s so competitive, but I am honored to receive it. I was actually finishing a take-home final when I got the email. Needless to say, I had a hard time focusing on the last problem after getting the good news!”
“This will give me a lot of freedom for graduate school,” continued Clark. “Thanks should go to my advisor, Dr. Gorrell, for all his help and support. Without his help I would never have known about the fellowship. Also, the professors in the department have helped me immensely through the many excellent classes I have taken.”
“Ken has distinguished himself in the classroom and as a research assistant,” said his advisor, Professor Steve Gorrell. “His excellent research has resulted in new discoveries and insights, and has produced two publications. He has a good work ethic, integrity, an ability to grasp complex technical concepts, and a desire to learn and contribute. He has great potential as a scientist/engineer. He is one of the top graduate students I have ever advised.”
Oliver Johnson, from Sammamish, Washington, graduated from BYU with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in December 2010. However, Johnson started out at BYU as a history teaching major. After his LDS mission he took a career exploration class, and decided to change his major to Mechanical Engineering. It was after an introductory Materials Science course from Dr. Brent Adams that Johnson realized he wanted to work with microstructure design. During the rest of his undergraduate study at BYU, he took several graduate level courses in Materials Science, and did a summer internship at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, designing a nanocomposite sensor to study high-explosive materials.
Johnson is currently pursuing a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the direction of Dr. Christopher Schuh. He intends to seek a position as a professor at a research university when his PhD is complete. “I’m very grateful to have been awarded this fellowship,” he commented. “It was a wonderful feeling to have worked hard for something and to achieve that goal. This fellowship gives me the freedom to really be creative and explore ideas that I might not have otherwise been able to explore.”
“I am so grateful for the guidance and mentoring of Dr. Adams and Dr. Fullwood,” Johnson said. “They have had a profound influence on my life, and it is because of their excellent mentoring of undergraduate researchers that I and so many other of their students have received awards like this.”
“Oliver has always been remarkably independent and versatile,” commented Dr. Brent Adams. “We gave him three different research problems, and he contributed to all of them. He was diligent in publishing papers – several archival papers among them.”
“Oliver is thorough and persistent,” continued Adams. “I would say he is among the most remarkable young talents that I have seen in 30+ years of academic experience.”
NDSEG Fellowships are awarded to applicants who will pursue a doctoral degree in an area of DoD interest, which includes a variety of engineering and science fields. The Fellowship confers high honors upon its recipients, and allows them to attend any U.S. institution of their choice. NDSEG awards last for three years and pay for full tuition and all mandatory fees, a monthly stipend, and up to $1,000 a year in medical insurance.
The Department of Defense has awarded approximately 3,200 NDSEG fellowships since the program’s inception 22 years ago. The NDSEG Fellowship is sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office, the High Performance Computing Modernization Program, and the Office of Naval Research, under the direction of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering. For more information, visit