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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2012 / 05 

Eric Paterson selected to head aerospace and ocean engineering

May 23, 2012

Eric Paterson
Eric Paterson

Eric G. Paterson, a world-renowned expert in computational fluid dynamics, will join Virginia Tech as head of its aerospace and ocean engineering department, effective Aug. 10.

Paterson is currently a senior scientist at Penn State University's Applied Research Lab, the chief scientist of the computational mechanics division of the Applied Research Lab, and a professor of mechanical engineering.

His focus areas are ship and submarine hydrodynamics, renewable energy from hydro and wind turbines, cardiovascular fluid dynamics and heart-assist devices, and explosives trace detection.

"Dr. Paterson is particularly well-suited for his new position. His hiring instantly adds depth to both the aero and the ocean portions of the department's mission. In addition, Dr. Paterson has made noteworthy contributions to the field of bio-fluid mechanics," said Richard C. Benson, dean of Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, ranked in the top 10 in the country for total research expenditures by the National Science Foundation.

Paterson is a three-time mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Iowa, earning his bachelor's in 1987, his master's in 1990, and his doctorate in 1994. He spent two years as a postdoctoral associate at the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research (IIHR) at the University of Iowa after receiving his Ph.D. In 1996, he was promoted to assistant research engineer, and four years later, to associate research engineer.

During Paterson's tenure at the institute, he developed fluid dynamics software for simulation of ship boundary layers, wakes, and surface waves. This work was sponsored by ONR, and the software is still used today by engineers in the U.S. Navy laboratories. In 2001 he joined Penn State.

Among his honors, Paterson received a best paper award in 2011 for an article he authored in the Journal of Fluids and Structures. In 2011 he also received a Royal Academy of Engineering Distinguished Visiting Fellowship to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Exeter on tidal turbines and image-based CFD meshing. Among his publications, he has authored chapters in three books.

His current research includes a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop a "cyber wind facility" for simulation of offshore wind turbines, a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy that funds 10 graduate students in the field of hydropower, and a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health on the design of small blood pumps. He serves as a member of a team of several investigators on each of these projects. He is also the principal investigator on seven other current research grants, which largely focus on naval hydrodynamics and national security.

He is a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Physical Society, and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.