Another Aero Renaissance Man

Larry Hill, BSE 1983, Technical Staff Member, Los Alamos National Laboratory

I studied Aerospace Engineering because of my love for airplanes, but my graduate thesis project set my career path in the direction of one of my other interests, namely, explosions. Fortunately, the diversity of my Aerospace training turned out to be ideal for High Explosives (HE) research. Obviously fluid mechanics (the kind that includes compressible flow and shock waves) and combustion is key. Less obvious is the fact that HEs are relatively weak composite solid materials with complex constitutive behavior, which invokes solid mechanics. Detonation behavior in real materials is complex, and to model it one must merge elements of physics, chemistry, thermodynamics mathematics, and computing. Finally, experimental inquiry uses all manner of high-speed electronic and optical instrumentation. Each of these topics was covered to some extent in my Michigan undergraduate Aerospace program. The breadth of this and my subsequent graduate education has allowed me to work across the diverse areas of the field, and often to make connections between them. I’m amused when this attribute occasionally prompts fellow workers to ask something along the lines of: “Who or what ARE you?” But in fact my background defies easy characterization. An Aerospace engineer is in some sense a renaissance man (woman). I find that aspect quite satisfying.

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