UCLA Engineer Sam Taira Receives Department of Defense’s Most Prestigious Research Grant — Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship

Kunihiko Taira
UCLA Samueli


Jul 28, 2022

UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Kunihiko “Sam” Taira, a UCLA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who specializes in computational fluid dynamics, has received a 2022 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). It is the most prestigious research grant offered by the largest U.S. government agency and includes up to $3 million over a five-year period to support projects addressing fundamental problems.

“It is oriented towards bold and ambitious ‘blue sky’ research that will lead to extraordinary outcomes that may revolutionize entire disciplines, create entirely new fields, or disrupt accepted theories and perspectives,” said the program’s director Jean-Luc Cambier in the fellowship announcement.

Taira leads the Computational and Data-Driven Fluid Dynamics Group at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. The lab focuses on tackling a variety of fluid mechanics problems, with special emphasis in the areas of computational fluid dynamics, flow control, data science, network theory and unsteady aerodynamics. 

The fellowship will support Taira’s work in developing a new field of study — extreme aerodynamics. Theory developed from the study could lead to major improvements in aircraft design and operation, allowing them to fly safely and smoothly through dangerous and dynamic atmospheric conditions, such as powerful storms and hurricanes or high winds in the upper atmosphere, or in environments involving cityscapes and complex terrains where aerodynamics currently prove challenging. These concepts could also be applied in unsteady environments at sea.

Taira is one of only nine scholars — three of whom from University of California campuses — selected for the 2022 class. The fellowship is named after one of the most prominent American engineers of the 20th century, Vannevar Bush, who headed DOD’s Office of Scientific Research and Development.

Prior to joining UCLA Samueli in 2019, Taira was an associate professor at Florida State University. He received a B.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as well as an M.S. and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Caltech.

Among the other honors he has received are a pair of young investigator awards from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research. At UCLA, Taira teaches courses on fluid dynamics, including a graduate class he developed that incorporates data science techniques.

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