Duke Engineering Student Noël Bakhtian Receives Churchill Scholarship

Note to editors: A photograph of Bakhtian is available online at http://www.dukephoto.duke.edu/pages/Duke_News_Service/Bakh018905042.jpg.

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University student Noël Bakhtian has been selected as a 2005 recipient of the Winston Churchill Scholarship to conduct graduate study for a year at Cambridge University in England.

Bakhtian, a senior from Fort Myers, Fla., is completing a double major in mechanical engineering and physics and will graduate in May 2005. The Churchill Scholarship Program, established in 1959, enables outstanding American students to conduct graduate studies in engineering, mathematics, and the natural and physical sciences at Churchill College, Cambridge University. Ten of the scholarships are awarded each year by the Winston Churchill Foundation of New York City.

"My parents were speechless when I told them," said Bakhtian. "I think I had forgotten to mention to them that I had applied for the scholarship."

Bakhtian plans to continue aeronautical research that she began as a Pratt Undergraduate Research Fellow at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering -- working with Professor Earl Dowell, a mechanical engineer who specializes in aeroelasticity. For the past 16 months, Bakhtian has used wind tunnel experiments and simulations to study the "flutter" of airplane wings during flight. Flutter, which is similar to a flag flapping in the wind, can become severe enough to destroy the aircraft-despite changes a pilot might make to the flight speed. Bakhtian is working to improve the computational models of this effect, has prepared abstracts and given presentations on her research and is preparing a paper for peer review.

"Noël is a delight to work with as a Pratt Fellow," Dowell said. "Her combination of talent and enthusiasm is infectious. She is a valuable and productive member of our research team and I am sure has a very bright future in pursuing whatever path she ultimately decides to follow."

Life abroad will not be difficult for Bakhtian, who spent a summer in Paris studying French and a semester in Sydney, Australia, studying aircraft construction and design. As a member of Duke University Chorale and the Chapel Choir, she has traveled to Wales and England and performed in places such as Salisbury Cathedral.

Bakhtian is co-president of the Duke chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a resident assistant for her dormitory, president of the Chapel Choir and a founding board member of the Persian Students Association at Duke. She is a member of several engineering, physics and national academic honor societies.

She also frequently spends her Saturday mornings teaching middle school mathematics to at-risk students at the Durham Nativity School.

After graduation and her year at Cambridge, Bakhtian plans to pursue a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering and then apply to the astronaut program.