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Duke Partners in New International Masters Program

Duke University will partner with the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, and the University of Liège in Belgium to offer a new international masters program in turbomachinery aeromechanics dubbed THRUST. Courses will begin in the fall of 2010.

The THRUST program will receive $2.5 million Euros (about $3.6 million U.S. dollars) over five years from the European Commission’s Erasmus Mundus program and is one of 50 new masters and 13 doctorate programs selected.

THRUST is designed to provide students with a broadly international learning experience through a suite of turbomachinery aeromechanics courses offered at the four universities.

In the first two semesters of the program, students will be at the Royal Institute of Technology, Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan (KTH), in Stockholm. Study in aerodynamics, mechanics, materials, and damping can then be taken at Duke, Aristotle Universit, or the University of Liège in the third and fourth semesters.

Professor Torsten Fransson of the Department of Energy and Technology at KTH will coordinate the overall program. Robert Kielb, associate chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science in Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, will coordinate Duke’s part of the program. Kielb holds an affiliated professor position at KTH.

Tod Laursen, chair of Duke's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, calls the program a natural outgrowth of existing collaborations between Duke and the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology. “THRUST will build on existing student exchange programs and research collaborations between the two institutions,” he said.

According to Kielb, it is an opportune time for turbomachinery careers, since turbomachines produce more than 90 percent of the world’s electricity, drive the vast majority of commercial aircraft, and are used extensively as compressors and pumps in many modern applications.

“Engineers with expertise in aeromechanics, the study of the interaction of aerodynamic forces and structural dynamic response, are needed for the design and analysis of more efficient, lighter, cheaper and reliable jet engines, steam turbines, gas turbines, wind turbines and hydro turbines,” he said.

In addition to Kielb, key Duke faculty members will include mechanical engineering professors Earl Dowell, Kenneth Hall, Tod Laursen and Lawrie Virgin. Dowell is a specialist in aeroelasticity, nonlinear and structural dynamics, and unsteady aerodynamics. Hall is a leading researcher in the field of turbomachinery aeroelasticity. Laursen specializes in continuum mechanics, engineering analysis, and finite element analysis methods. Virgin brings extensive experience in applying nonlinear dynamical systems theory to problems such as aeroelastic flutter of aircraft panels, structural analysis, thermal buckling and vibration.

Until now, no university has offered a master-level program directly focused on aeromechanics in turbomachines, the Duke officials said, adding that engineers with education at the master’s level or above are highly sought after by industry.

The THRUST curriculum will also offer extended industrial contacts through internships and workshops where the students, teachers and industrial partners will meet in person. Also, expert faculty at all four universities will make use of remote teaching technology for “virtual” interactive workshops and project courses.

The Erasmus Mundus program aims to enhance the quality of European higher education and promote dialogue and understanding between people and cultures through cooperation with countries outside the European Union.

The name of the program comes from Desiderius Erasmus Rotterdamus, a 15th-century Dutch humanist and theologian who studied in the best monastic schools throughout Europe. In his days, he was known as one of the most brilliant students of the time. “Mundus” is the Latin word for “world” and stands for the program’s global outreach.