Hurmat Ain · PhD Candidate Mechanical Engineering · University of Melbourne (Photo by Joe Vittorio)

Hurmat Ul Ain

PhD Candidate Mechanical Engineering · University of Melbourne

“I got my first computer when I entered engineering college. After my degree, I started working at Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO) in Pakistan, researching electronic circuits and digital signal programming and coding in C and C++ on microcontrollers. We were only two women in a group of 65 people which was pretty challenging. I was motivated by my work there and I applied for the Erasmus Mundus scholarship for Masters in numerical simulations in Sweden and Germany. After that, I was seeking for more, an area where I can challenge myself everyday so I applied for a PhD position in Mechanical engineering at the University of Melbourne. I won Australian postgraduate award and started as the only female engineer in fluid mechanics group in 2013.

“I study the dynamics and statistics of vortical motions, which plays a vital role in turbulent flows. Turbulent flows are irregular, chaotic, three dimensional, dissipative and time varying such as flow around aircrafts and ground vehicles, oceanic currents, solar flares, cigarette plumes, and even blood flowing through our arteries. It is important and intriguing to understand turbulent flows and to make quantitative predictions in order to control it. The study on turbulent flows has been an active area of research for more than a century, and yet remains one of the least understood.

“For my research, I conduct experiments in a large water tank. I study the flow features by illuminating suspended particles by a laser source and recording images using a high speed camera. These are very sophisticated experiments and require utmost care, diligence and effort to deliver a successful measurement. Another big challenge is to process, analyze and manage large data sets obtained through these experiments. My research will help answer some fundamental questions related to turbulent flows which impact an enormous multitude of scientific and engineering applications. These include being responsible for the drag force experienced by high speed trains, aircraft and marine craft. Drag is the aerodynamic force that opposes an aircraft’s motion through the air and results in high fuel consumption. Owing to Australia’s geographic isolation, reduction in skin friction drag of only a few percent would result in billions of dollars of savings for the commercial airlines. This would have significant positive impact on Australia’s economy.”

“I am glad that I have come this far in my professional journey, but what I am really proud of is to create opportunities for myself through hard work and consistent attitude despite financial and social constraints. I love my research and the idea of making a useful contribution to one of the most challenging fields of science. Resolving the mysteries behind complex fluid flows is just as thrilling as finding missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I feel great to have developed a versatile skill set that enables me to pick up on new possibilities.”

“I’ve tackled serious challenges in my personal and professional life. In those times, I was only reminding myself that the harder you fall the higher you bounce. Keep up the hope and your time will come. And it did really help to develop my inner strength and peace.”