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Fluid dynamics in physics grad programs

  1. Sep 20, 2010 #1
    So basically I'm considering applying to physics or applied physics grad programs. But I'm also considering doing CFD as a career. I was hoping there was a way I could see them both in a grad program, but I haven't seen any physics grad programs with CFD as a research area by itself. Rather, I see it in soft condensed matter, computational astrophysics, etc instead. Are there any grad programs that combines physics and has CFD as a separate research area?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 20, 2010 #2
    Usually what happens is that you have schools in which CFD or high performance computing is set up as an interdisciplinary group. CFD is so large a field that people tend to specialize in one part of it.
  4. Sep 20, 2010 #3
    I don't see any problem in doing both together. The way I see it, CFD is, or has become, a study approach rather than a research field by itself. Same as experimental and theoretical physics.
  5. Sep 20, 2010 #4

    So you're saying that I should just apply to any physics grad program I'm interested in, as they should have some research group doing computational work, which is where I can do CFD if I wish to?

    The only industrial/applied aspect I'm interested in is the aerodynamics aspect. But I'm also interested in the theoretical side, such as vortices. Since I see more areas of research that interest me in physics depts, but not AE/ME, I thought I should apply to physics grad schools.

    Are you also saying I could just do research in any field of physics, but just join a research group doing lots of computational work?
  6. Sep 20, 2010 #5
    Not any field of physics would deal with CFD. I don't see how you would apply CFD in string theory research for instance. But many of them, which tackle problems in which Hydrodynamics is central, do.

    Like I said in the other post, there is a degree of flexibility. So while you do a Ph.D in vortex dynamics, you can still have some consultancy employment in industrial cyclones simulations.
  7. Sep 20, 2010 #6
    the areas of physics I'm mostly looking into are atomic, molecular, optical, and (hard) condensed matter. Maybe astrophysics as well, but I didn't take any undergrad classes in that.

    I would like to do a phD in those but still have the option of doing CFD work in industry (preferably for defense/aerospace work) after graduating
  8. Sep 20, 2010 #7
    Well, for a school suggestion, I can say that the University of California Santa Cruz does research in CM and CFD. They also have a really good Astrophysics program. I don't think their physics department it's self does research in CFD, but the math and applied math departments are involved in CFD and asto CFD. I believe that UC Berkeley also has some asto CFD work done in their physics and/or math departments. If you're looking at CFD, I've noticed that more math departments do that than physics.

    I think in general CFD isn't a research area by it's self as you have to be computing the fluid dynamics of something. I know there's a journal of fluid mechanics/rheology, so you could look up some articles in that and see where the people writing them are located. Also, another field that CFD is used in is Plasma Physics if that interests you. CFD in Plasma Physics (which is generally in the realm of Magnetohydro Dynamics) is what I'm looking to go to grad school for.

  9. Sep 20, 2010 #8
    Yes, I know CFD is done in applied math, but I'm more interested in physical aspects of problems than the math, so I don't think applied math programs are for me. I don't need to be in a dept where CFD is a research area by itself. I just want to pick a dept, hopefully in physics, where I can pick up the skills of CFD if I wish to, so that way I can be employable if I go into CFD after getting a phD in physics.
  10. Sep 21, 2010 #9
    The skills industry people look for in CFD is pretty field non-specific and the people that are have experience in CFD are rare enough so that people look across fields when hiring. Within academia, the specific algorithms and techniques are pretty field specific. For example in aerospace, you have simple flow conditions but complex boundary conditions. In astrophysics, it's the opposite. However, if you have general ability to work with complex code, then learning different algorithms isn't very difficult.

    Also CFD is pretty useful in other areas. When interest rates are high, then options become "convective" which means that you have to worry about numerical instabilities that you normally don't have to worry about.

    Also, modelling fluids correctly seems to be extremely critical for getting a hydrogen bomb to work. This is important for world peace. It becomes much easier to control the spread of nuclear weapons if there is a global ban on testing nuclear bombs, and the major powers are not going to agree to stop testing nuclear weapons unless they have computer codes that can give them some reliance that their bombs still work. Once you can't test nuclear bombs, it becomes extremely difficult for countries that don't have weapons to figure out how they work.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  11. Sep 22, 2010 #10
    Really? That sounds like what I want to hear! I would love to do computational research in solid-state or astrophysics, yet still have opportunities to get an industrial job in CFD
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