Undergraduate Research Scholar Spotlight – Chris McDonald

By Chrystina Rago


As an undergraduate student seldom do you have time to sleep, let alone create a research project, go to an academic conference to present it and win first prize, but that’s just what Chris McDonald, senior mechanical engineering major, did. He presented his research at the American Physical Society conference in San Diego in November. McDonald received first place in the fluid dynamics category of the student poster session.   

I contacted McDonald to learn more about his life as undergraduate researcher, the American Physical Society Conference and his future plans.


How did you get started in Undergraduate Research?

I was taking heat transfer with Dr. Ranjan. In the beginning of the year he told us about his research and mentioned that there may be undergraduate positions available. I set up a meeting with him and the PhD candidate I would be working with in the lab. From there work began in late January.


What is does your research focus on?

Our research is an experimental investigation of the Richtmyer-Meshkov Instability on an inclined interface, which is a fluid instability that arises in supersonic mixing of two fluids. It is important because it is a step towards creating a sustainable fusion reaction. The creation of a sustainable fusion reaction would generate virtually unlimited power on a global scale, solving many of our current energy woes.   


How was your experience presenting to the American Physical Society?

Eye opening. First off, it was in San Diego and there was enough down time to enjoy some of the sights! The presentation was a fun experience, as well. It was a casual setup, with many people simply perusing all the different posters. The thing I found interesting was even in that academic atmosphere you had to grab their attention and in a way say, “Hey, I’m here, and I’ve got something cool to show ya!”


How has this conference and presentation changed or solidified your views of the importance of undergraduate research?

Yes! Working for Dr. Ranjan this last year has shown me a world of opportunities that I did not know were there. Undergraduate Research is an excellent opportunity for those looking to apply what they have learned in the classroom, network, and gain some hands on experience in a field they enjoy, while attending classes.


What are your future plans?

My future plans are to take the GRE this semester and apply to graduate school here at Texas A&M for the Spring of 2014. I am also currently working out the details for a trip to India this summer, where I will go to work at IIT Kanpur, a premier academic institution.


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