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Gaertner Chosen for 2014-15 Sisson Fellowship

Evan Gaertner, a graduate student in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department, has been selected from a pool of several highly qualified applicants to receive the 2014-15 Edwin V. Sisson Doctoral Fellowship, starting this coming September (2014). Sisson is a 1968 alumnus from the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department, and his fellowship fund is geared toward first-year doctoral candidates from any of the four departments in the College of Engineering who do research in sustainable energy or other environmental subjects, the main areas of the donor’s concerns. His graduate research, performed under faculty advisor Matthew Lackner of the MIE department, is focused on modeling unsteady aerodynamics of floating offshore wind turbines.

“I'm extremely grateful and excited to have been selected,” says Gaertner about the fellowship.

Mr. Sisson, a Massachusetts native, graduated from the College of Engineering in 1968 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and went on to spend his career at the Connecticut Department of Transportation, retiring in 1997. He has been a very strong supporter of the college for over 20 years, having established the Edwin V. Sisson Scholarship endowment and contributed as a major donor to the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department’s Structural Testing Facility. Mr. Sisson has a passion for renewable and alternative energy and is most interested in supporting engineering students who share this passion.

Graduate student Varun Srinivasan of the CEE department was the 2013-14 recipient of the Sisson Fellowship. Srinivasan worked with his faculty advisor Caitlyn Butler of the CEE department on her innovative Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) Latrine. Dubbed the “Green Latrine,” the MFC is a sanitation technology for the developing world that treats waste, produces usable compost, and generates electricity.

Gaertner’s primary research interests are aerodynamic modeling, integrated design and control of wind turbines, and floating offshore wind turbines. 

As Gaertner’s research abstract explains, “Floating wind turbines offer many benefits by allowing development in deeper waters farther from shore, however they present unique engineering challenges due to platform motion as they are buffeted by wind and waves. This couples the dynamic response of several subsystems and can lead to higher extreme and fatigue loads than comparable onshore or fixed-bottom offshore systems. To help address this concern, an area I would like to explore in my doctoral research is the integrated design of floating wind turbines. Since the floating platform, mooring lines, turbine controls, and structural controls are all dynamically coupled, designing them independently can lead to a sub-optimal complete system. An integrated design approach could better balance the conflicting design requirements of different subassemblies to reduce platform motion and turbine loads, with the goal of increasing turbine efficiency and reducing material costs. I also plan to use this approach to expand upon my Master’s research by examining aerodynamic optimization of the turbine rotor, specifically for the unsteady flow conditions seen by offshore floating wind turbines.”

Gaertner’s Master’s thesis is entitled “Modeling dynamic stall for a free vortex wake model of a floating offshore wind turbine,” and he is expected to receive his M.S. degree this May (2014).

Gaertner earned his B.S. degree in Integrated Science and Technology at James Madison University in 2011. While there, he completed a short-term study abroad in the Republic of Malta during the summer of 2010, participating in state-endorsed research on sustainable energy development on the island of Gozo.

During the summer of 2013, he served as an offshore wind turbine modeling intern at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Boulder, Colorado. From January to June of 2013, he worked as a research and development intern at Alstom Power in Richmond, Virginia. From January 2012 to January of 2014, he was a research assistant at the UMass Wind Energy Center. Gaertner was an intern at the Virginia Center for Wind Energy in Harrisonburg, Virginia, from May of 2008 to July in 2011.

Gaertner has also been awarded a two-year fellowship from the National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) graduate program in Offshore Wind Energy Engineering, Environmental Science, and Policy at UMass Amherst, which will train 24 doctoral students over the course of five years in the technology, environmental implications, and social/economic/regulatory challenges of offshore wind farms. Gaertner’s IGERT Fellowship will begin at the end of his Sisson Fellowship.

Among other honors, Gaertner was awarded the Roop Foundation Scholarship for the 2010-2011 school year and the William E. Heronemus Scholarship for the 2012-2013 school year. (April 2014)