I’m a PhD student researching jet engines at Cambridge
I was born in Russia and moved to America when I was 8 years old. When I was a little girl, I loved space and really wanted to be a cosmonaut. When I grew up, I decided to study aerospace engineering at The Ohio State University. Here I realized that I liked air planes as well as rockets and focused my studies more on jet engines. I then went to work for Rolls-Royce in Indiana, USA for five years (they make jet engines for all sorts of air planes). Then I decided to go back to school to get a PhD and that’s how I ended up in Cambridge, UK, at the Whittle Lab! Besides engineering, I love baking and ballet. My favorite thing to bake is macarons, here is a picture of some!
I try to make jet engines eat less fuel by making the turbine inside work better
One of the reasons that flying costs so much is because jet engines need a lot of fuel to propel the air plane. A way to reduce the amount of fuel the engine needs is to make it more efficient. How can we make the engine give the same about of thrust with less energy coming in? One way is to reduce drag on the tiny airfoils inside the jet engine that convert fuel energy into work. This is exactly what I’m looking at! I do lots of experiments to figure out where the drag on those tiny airfoils inside of the engine is coming from.
My Typical Day: I measure things in a wind tunnel
Here’s a picture of me with a small wind tunnel. There are a bunch of probes that measure the speed and flow direction of the air. Some of the probes are really small and fragile – smaller than the width of a human hair! These probes can measure really tiny details of the flow which can tell us a lot about what causes drag on the tiny airfoils inside of the jet engine.
What I'd do with the money
Build more portable wind tunnels!
I love working with my wind tunnel so much that I built a smaller, portable version of my wind tunnel last year. The idea is to take it into schools and let students design and test turbines in the wind tunnel in their own classrooms. The students build turbine blades that mount on a generator. When the tunnel is turned on, the turbines spin in the wind and the generator converts the spinning power into electricity. The more electricity that is generated, the more light bulbs light up at the top of the tunnel! I’ve built a prototype last year but it needs more improvements so I would spend the money on improving this portable wind tunnel (like a sturdier generator, better electronic wiring, and material for turbine blade design) and/or building more portable wind tunnels like it. Here’s a picture of the wind tunnel last year.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Friendly, curious, and hard-working
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I helped inspect an engine that had just come off the air plane for services. The team took the engine apart and then put it back together!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A ballerina, a baker, or a biologist.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Baseball game in South Korea – everyone was dancing and cheering, it felt like a concert!
Tell us a joke.
What do chemists use to make guacamole? Avogadros!!!