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By Abigail Dove
A cornerstone of APS since 1947, the Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) is a home for scientists and engineers who study the flows of different fluids—from gases and liquids to multiphase mixtures and granular materials.
Prominent examples of fluid physics include the aero- and hydro-dynamics of airplanes, cars, and ships; flows of fluids inside pipes (such as oil pipelines and steam lines in power plants); and oceanographic and atmospheric science and the prediction of weather patterns—particularly important in this era of climate change.
There are also many biological applications of fluid dynamics, such as the study of how dolphins, sharks, and tuna are able to swim so quickly, or how bumblebees—once asserted in jest to be “physics-defying” given their small wing size—are able to fly. Fluid dynamics is also highly relevant to astrophysics and the study of nebulae in interstellar space. One of the early chairs of DFD was astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who received the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the evolution of stars.
An especially timely example in the age of coronavirus is the fluid dynamics of respiration: How far do respiratory droplets travel when a person breathes or speaks? How does this change with vs. without a mask? How do we design better ventilators and filters?
Given this broad reach, it should come as no surprise that DFD is a highly interdisciplinary group, including not only physicists but also mathematicians, earth and atmospheric scientists, and aerospace, mechanical, and nuclear engineers. This makes DFD an important entry-point to APS for researchers beyond physics.
Approximately 3,600 members strong, DFD is the second-largest division at APS, after the Division of Condensed Matter Physics (DCMP; see APS News April 2019). Notably, nearly 50% of DFD members are students (graduate and undergraduate), underscoring the vibrancy of fluid dynamics.
A particular point of pride for DFD is its Annual Meeting. Typically drawing upwards of 3,500 attendees, this is the largest divisional meeting of its kind within APS. Going on 73 years, it is also the oldest. Besides a large selection of invited talks on topics of broad interest to the DFD community, the meeting also includes more focused “mini-symposia,” career development workshops, student lunches hosted by senior researchers, a networking lunch for women in this male-dominated field, and a similar event for under-represented minority researchers. Oral presentations are divided into traditional 12-minute presentations and sessions of 1-minute “flash presentations” where researchers are challenged to distill their findings into a single PowerPoint slide (followed by a poster session for further discussion).
DFD chair Minami Yoda (Georgia Tech) emphasized that the DFD Annual Meeting is “abstracts-only,” meaning that much of the data presented is new—sometimes only weeks-old—and reflects the very cutting edge of the field. Since the meeting effectively has a limit of one presentation per attendee, it encourages senior researchers to bring their students to give presentations of their own work.
“I was inspired by this meeting as a young graduate student, and I always come back from it with new ideas,” noted Yoda. “It can be like drinking from a firehose, but here you get to see the future of fluid mechanics in a way you won’t see anywhere else.”
Last year’s DFD Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington was the largest-ever with a whopping 42 parallel sessions and a record-breaking 3,800 attendees. Notably, 35% of attendees hailed from abroad, underscoring DFD’s status as perhaps the largest international community of fluid mechanics researchers.
The 2020 DFD Annual Meeting is slated for November 22-24 in Chicago, Illinois. Discussions are underway regarding whether the meeting will proceed live or in an altered virtual format.
Beyond conferences, DFD also runs the Gallery of Fluid Motion, an exhibition to highlight both the aesthetics and science of fluid dynamics. Every year, fluid dynamics researchers are invited to submit posters or videos to the Gallery, which are then judged for a combination of striking visual qualities and scientific interest. The winning submissions are displayed at the DFD Annual Meeting and subsequently published in the APS journal, Physical Review Fluids. Past winners dating back to 2014 are available at the Gallery of Fluid Motion website.
Looking to the future, the DFD Executive Committee is focused on ensuring that the DFD Annual Meeting remains “the largest and best meeting in fluid mechanics,” as Yoda put it. Increasing the diversity of DFD’s membership (currently over 80% male) is another key priority. On a hopeful note, much of DFD’s recent growth has come from a new and more diverse generation of students and early-career scientists. To this end, half of the division’s Fellows have been female over the last two years, and of the women in DFD over 60% are students.
Overall, over 73 years and counting, DFD has proven itself as a research powerhouse within APS, and a leader in engaging both young scientists and the international community. More information on this unit can be found at the DFD website.
The author is a freelance writer in Stockholm, Sweden.
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