What brought you to Swansea University?
I grew up in Swansea, but it wasn’t until I left to study Aeronautical Engineering in Cambridge that I realised what an amazing part of the world it is. During my four years in Cambridge I was determined to find a way to return to Swansea and establish a career here in South Wales after I graduated. I discovered that there was a world-leading research group in engineering computational modelling at Swansea’s Engineering department, so in my final year of studying at Cambridge I started exploring options for postgraduate studies at Swansea. This is when I met Professor Ken Morgan and Professor Oubay Hassan who came to be my PhD supervisors.
How did you get involved with the Bloodhound project?
Around the time I was writing up my PhD thesis, which was based on the development of a novel computational modelling method for solving the Boltzmann equation for molecular gas dynamics, I had started thinking about what to do next. My plan had been to go into teaching (I come from a family of teachers and that seemed like an obvious path for me) but I got side-tracked by an offer to work for three years leading the computational fluid dynamics modelling of the Bloodhound Land Speed Record car (the University had already developed a relationship with Richard Noble and the team from their work on the Thrust SSC Land Speed Record attempt). It seemed like too good an opportunity to turn down!
What is your role with the project?
Since 2008 I have been the aerodynamic modelling lead for the design of the Bloodhound LSR car. I have carried out this role whilst based at Swansea University, initially as a Research Assistant and more recently as a member of academic staff within the College of Engineering. I juggle my ‘day job’ responsibilities at the University (which at the moment involves helping deliver the Aerospace Engineering undergraduate degree programme) with acting as a consultant to the Bloodhound project.
What’s it like being part of a team trying to beat the land speed record?
Hard work, and an emotional rollercoaster! Being the sole person responsible for all of the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis for a unique and complex vehicle like Bloodhound has been a mammoth body of work over the past decade (in a commercial project of this scale in industry you might expect a large team of engineers to be doing this) and, of course, if you’ve been following the project you will be aware that it has had lots of ups and downs, mainly due to finances.
Will the car beat the land speed record?
Yes! If the project continues to be financed. We are now extremely confident that the car is capable of speeds in excess of the current record (763 mph). The big question will be how far we can push it beyond this (before the money runs out!)
What advice would you have for anyone considering studying at Swansea?
Swansea is an amazing University in a beautiful location. My experience (on both the student and staff side) has been that people here are extremely friendly and there is a real ‘community’ feel. The opportunity to be academically challenged whilst also having a great quality of life is second to none in my opinion!