Mark Drela

Terry J. Kohler Professor
Director, Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel
I get to make things that fly, often pushing the limits of what's physically possible. Seeing your work fly, or otherwise putting it through its paces, is the most exciting thing about my research.

Contact Info

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Administrative Contact

Jean Sofronas

Financial Contact

Suxin Hu

Specialization and Research Interests

Current research involves the development of computational algorithms for the prediction of 2D and 3D external flows about aerodynamic bodies. Subsonic, transonic, and supersonic flow regimes are being considered. Most of the work centers on viscous/inviscid coupling schemes in conjunction with direct Newton solution methods. Two- and three-dimensional integral boundary layer formulations are also being developed for modeling viscous regions. Specific geometries currently being considered include high-lift multielement airfoils, wing/body configurations, and axisymetric powered engine nacelles. Research into optimization techniques and strategies is also being pursued in parallel with computational aerodynamics work. A key goal is the development of methods for efficient calculation of design-parameter sensitivities. Also being pursued is the development of interactive tools to permit the designer to make the most effective use of the computed design parameter- sensitivity information to guide the evolution of a design.

Primary research interests are in low speed and transonic aerodynamics, physical modeling and design of aircraft and aeromechanical devices, and development of computational aerodynamic design/analysis codes which are currently being used in the aircraft and gas turbine industry.

Teaching Interests

Fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, aircraft design

Academic Degrees

S.B., 1983, Massachusetts Institute of Technology S.M., 1983, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ph.D., 1985, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Society Memberships

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Fellow; National Academy of Engineering, Member

Positions Held at MIT

Aeronautics and Astronautics Vehicle Sector Co-head, 2007-2011; Terry J. Kohler Professor, 2001-present; Professor, 2000 -2001; Associate Professor, 1991-2000; T. Wilson Associate Professor, 1991-1992; Carl Richard Soderberg Assistant Professor, 1988-1990; Assistant Professor, 1986-1991

Affiliated Labs

Featured Story

MIT unveils new Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel
A state-of-the-art facility replaces a nearly 80-year-old campus landmark to become the most advanced wind tunnel in U.S. academia.
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Awards & Honors

Reed Aeronautics Award, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
Theoretical Fluids Best-Paper Award, AIAA
William Littlewood Memorial Award, SAE/AIAA
Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award
Member, National Academy of Engineering (NAE)
Applied Aerodynamics Best-Paper Award, AIAA
Fellow, AIAA
Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Best Paper Award, American Society of Mechanical Engineers/AIAA
DuPont Human Powered Watercraft Speed Record (18.5 kt) and Prize, International Human Powered Vehicle Association
Lawrence Sperry Award, AIAA
Third Kremer Prize for Human-Powered Aircraft, Royal Aeronautical Society