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Internship in fluid mechanics (Princeton, Brown, UCSD )

  1. Oct 10, 2012 #1

    I posted on college confidential and they advised me to come here. So here's my questions !
    I'm currently a French student in fifth year of higher education (physics/engineering) and I'd like to do an internship in a US lab for 3 months.

    I currently have some opportunities :
    - Brown : on the bat fly
    - San Diego : on nano swim
    - Santa Barbara : on turbidity currents
    - Princeton : on radiatively driven flows or vortex (2 different labs)

    Basically, all these subjects look great.
    I wanted to do this internship on fluid mechanics applied to aero/astronautics but it's quite hard to find. I asked many faculty in Stanford but they lack space and can't host international students.

    I don't really know which university to pick as all these subjects interest me. Princeton and Brown attracts me (especially Princeton) but I don't really know why as I can't really compare them.

    What would you advise me to do ?

    Thanks for your help
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2012 #2
    My first thought would be to recommend you look at NASA, as they have a large internship program called SOLAR set up already. But I'm not sure if they take international students. At any rate, you should really check with the program advisors to see if they have anything for international students.

    The other thing I would like to mention is that since you are interested in fluids, you shouldn't restrict yourself too much. For example, working on pure fluids research in a theoretical physics department might be nice, but don't forget to look at geophysics for hydrodynamics, hydrology, underground flows, atmospheric science, mechanical and aerospace engineering, wind dynamics, etc. Particularly for engineering, this will provide lots of opportunity. It may not be exactly what you're looking for, but it is related and it will certainly help you understand fluid dynamics better.

    Another field I want you to consider is astrophysics. I didn't mention this up there because I think this is something that you should really look into (and is also something I have experience with). The astronomy and astrophysics community isn't huge, and more importantly its distributed world wide. This is good for you as an international student. You can work in stellar astro, magnetohydrodynamics, galactic dynamics, hell even computational cosmology would be good.

    The reason why you should look at all these different fields is that basically it all comes down to numerically solving partial differential equations via finite difference/element/volume methods. That means you're going to write a ton of mathematical code to run on fast computers. This is another point--if you fail to find anything involved with physics or engineering, you should seek any opportunity you can to improve your numerical programming skills. That is, learning how to deal with data, learning about precision arithmetic on computers, optimization of code, learning to actually write code in a fast, lower level language (e.g. C, C++, FORTRAN, and maybe Python/MATLAB for prototyping). All of this will be almost just as important as knowing the physics itself.

    You've got a lot of Googling to do. Good luck.
  4. Oct 10, 2012 #3
    Thanks a lot for your answer.

    I'll take it paragraph by paragraph because there's a lot to say !

    I've contacted many people working for NASA and unfortunately they don't really have free space. They also have internship programs but either it's US citizen only, or you have to be chosen by the CNES or ESA and their conditions can't fit with mine.

    It's quite a shame because NASA does a lot of interesting research.

    Actually I first searched in the aerospace and aeronautics fileds. Stanford has a huge department working on this. I contacted almost every faculty working in it but they have to many requests ...
    My goal (in the future) would be to work in fluid dynamics applied to aeronautics or astronautics.

    I also considered astrophysics. I've done an internship in this field (Observatoire de Paris). Astrophisics is my second love with aeronautics. There are many subjects represented in this field. But once again it's hard to find someone who can host me.
    I currently have an opportunities in a plasma lab, which would be great, but this is to confirm.

    You're just right saying this. I have skills in C, C++/Python, Matlab and finite elements and people generally say "your numeric skills interest me". And this is what I try to improve because these skills are useful in many fields.

    Thanks again for your answer, you confirmed all my "feelings" !
  5. Oct 12, 2012 #4
    One last thing. You mention a lot about these very prestigious schools. I'm afraid that [my impression of] your focus is too much on these. Of course you might have more of a chance at a school that has more funding to get you there, but don't be afraid to look at lesser known schools as well. For example, NASA Ames is in Iowa, so check the local universities around and talk to engineering folks there. Similarly around the Pasadena area, in Florida. Also look at faculty and what they're doing. It's a big list, but usually where I like to start from is the US News Rankings for engineering and then just go down the list, checking the sites.

    In this way you aren't limiting yourself. As an international student, you have to try and pursue every lead. If you do that, I'd say you'd be unlucky not to find anything.
  6. Oct 12, 2012 #5
    You're right. But the thing is that my school wants us to go to a partner university. So the choice becomes thinner.
    But I'll have a look at other schools (the us news ranking will be useful).

    For the moment I'm almost sure to have two internships in Princeton and one at NASA. But it's always good to look around.
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