Bradley Henderson

Bradley Henderson will spend the summer in a paid internship in the Engineering Laboratory at NIST headquarters.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Dave Cook was listening when Dr. Willie May, then-acting director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), gave a December public talk after delivering the commencement address at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

In that talk, Dr. May invited UAH students to apply for the NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). Cook, the coordinator of student research programs for UAH’s Office of Academic Affairs, prompted students to take Dr. May up on his offer.

As a result, Bradley Henderson, a senior in aerospace engineering, will spend the summer in a paid internship working in the Engineering Laboratory at the NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., performing large-eddy simulations of heated channel flow.

"I’m very excited to spend the summer working at NIST. Working shoulder to shoulder with researchers at one of the world's leading research organizations that also serves as the nation’s metrological institute is an opportunity only a select handful of students get," says Henderson, whose hometown is Hopkinsville, Ky. "As a bonus, the location of the NIST headquarters will allow me to explore the Washington, D.C., area, including the nation’s capital, the Smithsonian and a variety of other museums. It should be a great experience overall."

Dr. Xu says that Henderson, who has been working in his Propulsion Research Center lab as an undergraduate researcher since fall 2015, was a perfect fit for the opportunity.

"He's worked on a variety of projects, from a plasma microthruster to flame acoustic damping," says Dr. Xu, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Working with Dr. Xu last summer as a participant in UAH’s Research or Creative Experience for Undergraduates (RCEU) program, Henderson demonstrated that a direct current (DC) electric field could be used to dampen thermoacoustic instabilities in a Rijke tube.

"This effect has been suggested before in the literature, but I believe this is the first time it's been experimentally demonstrated," says Dr. Xu. "Bradley wrote a paper to the AIAA Journal of Propulsion and Power about it last August and it was accepted for publication this month. So he is making graduate-level accomplishments while still an undergrad."

The summer experience will broaden Henderson’s expertise even more, Dr. Xu says.

"I think this experience will be great for him. It will let him experience a different topic, different city and interact with researchers from NIST," Dr. Xu says. "For the university, this also opens the door for more student applications in the future, as we now know how the process works."

As the measurement standards laboratory for the United States, NIST’s mission is to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness.

The NIST SURF program sponsors an 11-week summer internship for undergraduate students enrolled at U.S. two- and four-year institutions majoring in a variety of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. The internship gives students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with cutting-edge technology in one of the world's leading research organizations.