MSU aerospace engineering professor, alumna receive international top paper honor from Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Contact: James Carskadon

MSU aerospace engineering alumna Leeann Meadows, left, and Aerospace Engineering Professor Rani Sullivan, right, receive the 2018 George Stephenson Medal from Institution of Mechanical Engineers President Tony Roche. (Submitted photo)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State University Bagley College of Engineering professor and a recent graduate have been named recipients of the 2018 George Stephenson Gold Medal, awarded for the best original paper published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Rani Sullivan, Richard H. Johnson Chair and professor of aerospace engineering, and MSU aerospace graduate Leeanna Meadows received the honor for a paper they co-authored titled “Distributed optical sensing in composite laminates,” published in the Journal of Strain Analysis for Engineering Design. Meadows, a Grenada native who now works at Dynetics in Huntsville, Alabama, holds a 2015 bachelor’s and 2017 master’s degree from MSU. She worked on the project as one of Sullivan’s graduate students.

The award-winning paper’s co-authors also include Kevin Brown and Vipul Ranatunga of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and Keith Vehorn and Steven Olson of the University of Dayton Research Institute.

“I am especially honored because this award not only acknowledges the relevance and importance of our research, it also provides recognition of the aerospace engineering department and the Bagley College of Engineering’s commitment to excellence in research and instruction,” Sullivan said.

The paper focuses on research efforts using fiber optics to develop structural health monitoring techniques for composite aerospace designs. Sullivan said that although polymer matrix composites increasingly are being used in aerospace structures, it remains difficult to manufacture large-scale composite parts and ensure their integrity. Sullivan’s research group uses optical fiber sensors to obtain data on deformations within the polymer matrix composites, providing valuable information that can be used to improve the design, manufacture and maintenance of advanced composite structures.

Research for the paper was conducted during a summer fellowship at the Air Force Research Laboratory. Sullivan and Meadows were recognized with the Stephenson Gold Medal during the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ recent awards banquet in Bristol, England. The organization’s annual awards “champion engineers who have improved the world, or advanced the discipline of engineering, both through professional and volunteering efforts.”

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