NSF fellow seeks heat transfer optimization using vortex generators
“My friend made sure I understood that I could go get a master’s degree and be funded,” Hardy said.
While at Michigan Technological University as an undergraduate, he had already begun writing his personal statement for the GRFP, which provides funding for graduate students who have demonstrated potential for achievement in science and engineering early in their careers. Fellows receive three years of funding toward their master’s or doctoral degree.
Hardy explored research opportunities within the University of Illinois’ master’s program and his areas of personal interest: energy systems and heat transfer technologies.
In fall 2013, he participated in the College of Engineering’s Multicultural Engineering Recruitment for Graduate Education (MERGE), a selective program that enabled him to speak with professors and research groups about their projects.
While there, Hardy identified with Professor Anthony Jacobi’s research project, which proposes using an array of vortex generators to improve heat transfer. Efficient vortex generators could sustain thermoelectric power plants. These generators serve as an alternative to running plants with current processes, which evaporate large amounts of fresh water to generate electricity.
Hardy noted the downfalls of using fresh water to run a power generation plant. “Fresh water resources are scarce,” he said. “Using salt water is feasible but better materials must be used to prevent corrosion in the machinery.”
Jacobi’s research is funded by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and NSF. Though Hardy’s research with Jacobi is scheduled to last two years, Hardy believes that the topic lends itself to further analysis.
“The research might provide something to move forward with for a PhD,” he said.
Hardy has a few words of advice for future applicants. He suggests NSF applicants begin their applications early and to spend ample time writing the personal statement.
“I think that’s the biggest hump to get over, writing the first draft,” Hardy said. While completing the application process, he also ensured that his writing reflected NSF’s criteria: intellectual merit and making a broader impact.
Today, Hardy maintains a blog to assist prospective NSF fellowship candidates with the application process. Check it out here.