As a graduate student, Mark Weislogel saw video footage of a NASA experiment involving the movement of fluids through a tube in zero gravity. From that point, he knew what he wanted to do with his professional life.
Weislogel worked for NASA for 10 years, during which time he sent his own zero-g experiments into both air and space. He came to Portland State in 2001. “I really caught the vision and the potential of this university,” he says. His research is about finding methods to improve the transport of fluids within a variety of systems and devices. The fluids often must travel through highly angular geometries unlike those found in nature.
Weislogel and his students study conduits of different shapes, and test their theories by sending them into zero-g, whether in NASA drop towers, low-g aircraft, the Space Shuttle, or the International Space Station. Space is the perfect training ground for many engineering pursuits. Weislogel provides undergraduates opportunity through the LaunchPSU program, a NASA co-sponsored program in which students send high altitude balloons with mission specific instrumentation into the limits of the atmosphere. It’s great fun, and highly instructional. “Just like any ‘launch’, you really only get one shot. So you have to rely more on planning and analysis than for more typical designs where one could exploit trial and error more effectively. However, we use some of the latter from time to time too,” he says.