Alumni Profiles Series: Tommy Miyakozawa
Tommy Miyakozawa received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Duke in 2008. His focus was on transonic fan flutter mechanisms and aerodynamic damping using computational fluid dynamic tools under the advisement of Dr. Robert Kielb and the GUIde Consortium. During his graduate studies, he interned with Rolls-Royce in the Fans & Compressors group; shortly after graduating, he returned to the company, where he has been ever since.
How did your internship with Rolls-Royce affect your Ph.D. journey?
Most of my research throughout graduate school was for General Electric, improving their jet engines and turbines. However, it was not exactly an industry setting since all of my work was here at Duke in the lab. Thus, I chose to spend a summer fully immersed in industry to gain a more real-world experience. As a result, I accepted an internship with Rolls-Royce in Derby, United Kingdom where I worked in their Fans and Compressors group performing mistuning studies. I greatly appreciated the real-world experience along my Ph. D. journey, and I felt that it made me a better candidate for a full-time position after receiving my degree. It connected my research at Duke with real-world problems that companies are facing every single day.
What brought you back to Rolls-Royce after obtaining your degree?
I really enjoyed working abroad in the United Kingdom. The Rolls-Royce site in Derby was very research oriented, which I liked a lot since I had just received my doctorate. However, it was also exciting to be performing research tasks in an industry setting versus academia. In addition, Rolls-Royce was an exciting company and I really enjoyed working there. So, it was an easy choice to return.
What was it like transitioning to living and working in the United Kingdom from the U.S.?
This was a tough transition. Life in the two countries is very different. My Japanese culture mixed with my American education really put me out of my comfort zone in the U.K.. However, it was an important experience nonetheless. I was able to stay focused, and I still succeeded abroad. I spent just about ten years in the U.K. before returning to the U.S. and relocating to Indianapolis where I am today, still with Rolls-Royce.
What are some of the benefits for working for a large company?
The daily hours are much more manageable for a larger company, compared to a small start-up company. Obviously choose what you are most interested in; I like the flexibility to choose my hours. Another huge benefit is the access to many mentors. At a large company with many employees, there are always new people to learn from in any field.
What do some of your current day-to-day tasks look like?
Most of my work is support of the various engines Rolls-Royce designs and produces. Sometimes we focus on the engine while other times we zero-in on particular components. We make sure each little part is as robust and long-lasting as possible, preventing wear and deterioration. My work is all very research-based, and I pull my knowledge from areas of structural dynamics, mechanical vibrations, aerodynamics, and computational fluid dynamics. What I like most is I get to work on a variety of projects, so my day-to-day tasks change depending on what needs to get done.
What are the most important skills to develop for a career in the aerospace industry?
- Always look closely at the details. Know exactly what you are looking at when it comes to data, equations, etc.
- Whenever possible, reconfirm data before you move on to new research
- Improve your time management; it will then improve your reliability
- Learn to estimate and meet your deadlines now—it will pay off later
What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students?
Ph.D.s are great! They prepare you for an awesome career path. I personally am incredibly happy with my decision [to pursue a Ph.D.]. My biggest advice is to glean information from data: do not just look at surface-level data trends and call it a day. Go below the tip of the iceberg. In addition, pursue multiple specialties. Obviously for a Ph.D., learn as much as you can about your selected topic, but do not stop there. Develop some other skills and experiences along the way, whether they are incredibly related or distinctly different. Take advantage of all the resources you can in graduate school. For example, I focused heavily on aeromechanics, flutter, and aerodynamic damping during my years at Duke. However, that did not mean I did not learn anything else; instead, I also developed skills and gained knowledge in areas of Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics as well. These are skills that I am still using today!
Richard Lee Hollenbach III
Ph.D. student, Mechanical Engineering
Ricky is currently a Ph.D. student in the Aeroelasticity Laboratory under the advisement of Dr. Kielb. By performing experimental tests as well as computational simulations, he is trying to understand the unsteady aerodynamics associated with Non-Synchronous Vibrations in Turbomachinery. To improve his knowledge of jet engine compressors and turbines, he completed an internship at Rolls-Royce in the Aeromechanics group during summer 2019.