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The secret life of waves

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Next time you are looking at the ocean, you might want to consider the fact that for some people every wave tells a story. Just ask PhD student, and 2017 STEM Travel Grant applicant, Elmira Fadaeiazar. With a mechanical engineering degree under her belt, Elmira’s love of physics, marine physics and her interest in studying fluid physics led her to specialise in fluid turbulence. Her current PhD focus is on wave and wind generated ocean turbulence.

What led you to study engineering?

I studied physics and have always had a strong interest in how things work and how fluids behave on a large scale, such as in the ocean. This led me into the specialised area of water related physics and fluid mechanics. In other words, I had the theoretical knowledge and was interested in putting the theory into practice, which led me to get involved in engineering.

What is the focus of your current study?

My PhD is a challenging research project, which is focussed on the nonlinear properties of ocean waves. Ocean turbulence generates mixing on the ocean surface, which regulates energy and heat exchange between the ocean surface and atmosphere. Plus wind and wave turbulence also generates freak waves in the ocean, which may damage offshore structures. So my focus is to study wave and wind properties and the way they generate turbulence.

How will your research be used?

From an engineering perspective, my research project has applicability for developing remote sensing techniques, understanding the formation of extreme waves and the contribution that waves exert on the mixing of oceanic water, which in turn affects global climate. The findings of my research project can be used in forecasting and prediction purposes, especially to predict global climate patterns and extreme waves.

On a typical day, what does your study involve?

While experiments are required in this area of research, a typical day of my PhD is spent on data analysing using a variety of methods and tools. The data I am working on is the result of experiments which were performed at the MARINTEK ocean basin in Trondheim, Norway. I am looking for wave turbulence in the data collected from the experiments at this specialist facility, which is one of the largest basins in the world.

What are your future goals and travel plans?

My ultimate goal is to become a full time researcher and a university lecturer, while also supporting and encouraging other women in engineering and science. Winning the travel grant would give me the opportunity to present my work to specialist researchers at one of the most prestigious international conferences in wave turbulence, set to be held in Europe in 2018. I will also have the chance to attend a summer school in Italy, which will be run by a professor who has contributed to my PhD and who is an expert in my area of research. I will also be able to work closely with him while in Europe.

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