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Summer researcher, assistant professor collaborate on award-winning project

By Joe McAdory

Published: Nov 17, 2021 9:55:00 AM

Vinamra Agrawal Vinamra Agrawal

Vinamra Agrawal believes critical thinking, an investigative thought process and effective communication skills are essential disciplines to bestow upon young scholars.

“These allow a researcher to examine problems, devise approaches, and discover positive and negative results,” said Agrawal, assistant professor in aerospace engineering who also heads the university’s Mechanics of Materials Laboratory. “The ability to communicate scientific ideas with audiences of diverse backgrounds is equally important.”

His lessons paid off.

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Brayden Noh

Agrawal mentee Brayden Noh, an Auburn High School graduate now at Cal Tech in Pasadena, California and his research “Visualizing how asteroids deform during atmospheric entry,” recently earned the American Geophysical Union Michael Freilich Student Visualization Competition grand prize.

“While an asteroid travels through the atmosphere, it could undergo significant shape change, or even break up into pieces, resulting in very complex craters on earth,” said Agrawal.

Why is this important?

“Impact cratering is a fundamental process that influences planetary evolution and habitability,” Agrawal said. “Impact craters also serve as ideal landing sites for space crafts. Brayden’s work will shed new light into the role of the shape and deformation of an asteroid on crater formation.”

Noh saluted Auburn University’s research opportunities for young scholars like himself.
“I started doing research in middle school with Auburn University’s regional science fair,” he said, “and I still get excited like a kid when learning about new areas of research. The word research might sound laborious and dull, but research happening at Auburn is very practical, which is fun.

“Auburn University’s aerospace engineering department offers frontier research in mechanics of material, which itself is a frontier field. With the world heading to microtechnology, materials research is very valuable in both research and industry. I will continue working on materials research with Dr. Agrawal because our projects are unexplored parts of computational simulation and materials science.”

Agrawal, a Cal Tech alum, said summer research students are “essential members of my lab.”

“Summer researchers bring new and exciting ideas and enthusiasm to pursue those ideas,” he said. “Working with myself and graduate students, undergraduate students become critical thinkers who contribute to the scientific community with hard work. Working with summer researchers is also a great opportunity to engage with students in research early in their careers. This often leads to students continuing in the lab as graduate students and gaining a deeper understanding into the subject matter.” 

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.844.3447

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