This past summer, Ivana Milanovic spent 10 weeks at the NASA John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where she is becoming a familiar face. This marks the fourth time she has received a NASA Faculty Fellowship to conduct research at the center, which was named for the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.
Milanovic, an associate professor in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture, does research in a branch of aeronautics called aerodynamics. It is the study of how air flows over a body in motion and how it affects that body’s movement. Aerodynamics plays an important part in racecar and aircraft-wing design to determine how much lift and drag are generated. It also has a role in improving fuel efficiency in passenger vehicles.
The high-technology equipment Milanovic needs for her research is so expensive that only a handful of universities in the United States can afford it. As a result, she must go into the “field” to do her research, much as her colleagues in other subject areas do.
“It would be impossible for the University to provide this type of equipment here on campus. So, that means that I must work with NASA and private companies in industry to test my theories and collect data,” says Milanovic. “Then I bring my results back to the classroom and share them with my students.”
While at the Glenn Center, Milanovic was investigating the vortices that form when a jet of air encounters a cross-flow of air. Tornado-like strands occur between the bottom layer of the wind tunnel and the jet itself. According to Milanovic, jets in cross-flow have practical applications in industry such as film and effusion cooling, mixing, aircraft performance and stability, and the dispersion of pollutants.
Thanks to a technology grant from the University, she has purchased three workstations where students use computer simulations to validate her results and create their own experiments.
Milanovic, who began her teaching career at the University of Belgrade in Serbia, devotes much of her time and energy to teaching.
“In Serbia,” she explains, “classes are quite large, and the professors give lectures before a hundred students and more. Here the classes are small, and students and professors get to know each other and work together.”
In addition to the papers and articles she writes about her research in aerodynamics, Milanovic also writes articles about higher education. Using her own experiences in the classroom, she shares techniques that have worked, and those that have failed, to successfully convey complex engineering concepts.
“ I am still learning and improving as a teacher. When I see that certain things are not working, I learn from my mistakes. I want to share that information with other professors because teaching well is not something that just happens.”