Thomas Corke

Clark Equipment Professor of Engineering, Director of the Institute for Flow Physics and Control

Thomas Corke

I get excited about trying to solve problems on technologically important applications that impact large numbers of people. These include making aircraft safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly; improving renewable energy sources such as wind; and contributing to our country’s defense.

I came to Notre Dame in 1999 to fill an endowed professorship after being on the faculty at the Illinois Institute of Technology for 16 years. My intention was to form a research institute, which became the Institute for Flow Physics and Control, or FlowPAC.

During its first five years, FlowPAC doubled its research funding each year until reaching an average annual level of approximately $6 million. In the process, its Ph.D. cohort increased from around 10 students to 75. It also now involves more than 25 companies and receives funding from a variety of government agencies.

FlowPAC’s growth has helped further develop and advance the Hessert Laboratory for Aerospace Research, whose foundation was laid in large part by my now-emeritus colleagues Thomas Mueller, Robert Nelson, and Steve Batill. With significant support from Notre Dame’s Office of Research and the College of Engineering, we have added graduate student offices and fabrication facilities and built the 22,000-square-foot White Field Laboratory. It was this type of commitment to graduate teaching and research that first attracted me to Notre Dame.

Most recently, the work we’ve been doing through FlowPAC and the Hessert Laboratory has been instrumental in paving the way for an ambitious new Notre Dame Turbomachinery Facility. The signature program of a $36 million project funded by the University and five partners, including General Electric Co. and the City of South Bend, this research and test center will focus on improving the efficiency of aircraft jet engines and other turbine machines while providing a strong technology infrastructure for the local community.

And we are not done. As the old saying goes: “There is room at the top, but not enough to sit down.” We continue to seek out new areas of research and new problems to tackle. One of these is on the frontier of hypersonic flight—aircraft that can fly six to 20 times the speed of sound or space vehicles re-entering an atmosphere.

It’s challenges like these—and the resources Notre Dame gives us to explore them—that foster the vibrant research environment that defines our group.

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