Think a CFD career might be right for you?

I have had several people contact me about getting started in a CFD career. Since there seems to be some interest in the subject, I thought I should compile a few tips and put them on the site. So read on for my thoughts on getting involved with computational fluid dynamics.

If you want to get into CFD, I think the best way is to jump in and try something. That's easy to say, but not always easy to do.

Preparing for a CFD career while you are in school

If you are still in school, or if you are in a position where you can attend university courses (at least part time), I would recommend taking some classes:

  • Fluid dynamics (so that you understand the physics of what you are modeling).
  • Numerical methods (so that you have an understanding of what the CFD codes are doing)
  • CFD-specific courses (so that you can see how the numerical methods are applied to the physics of fluids).

Learning CFD when you are already working

If you are already in a full-time job, then you may not have the time to take so many courses. In that case, I recommend attending a short course, such as those offered by your national or regional engineering professional society (in the U.S., that is the AIAA or ASME). Sometimes these courses are offered on-line. Other times they will be held in conjunction with a technical conference (and attending the CFD-related conference sessions is also a good way to learn).

Make use of online resources

In addition, check out some of the free flow solvers available on the web. Gerris and OpenFOAM are two that I've looked at. Both of them have tutorials which walk you through the process of setting up a grid, running the code, and doing some analysis of the results. If you work through all the tutorials, it will help to orient you about CFD in general.

For many codes, both free and commercial, there are various online discussion forums you can turn to for help if you get stuck. In my experience, while you may not be able to get answers for every question you have, there are a lot of experienced people out there who will try to help if they can.

You don't need to know everything to start a CFD career

Keep in mind that you don't have to learn everything about all types of flows and flow solvers. If you know that you want to use CFD specifically for semiconductor applications, for example, then you can focus on the physics associated with that (and bypass things that aren't really relevant--like atmospheric reentry physics).

Obviously, the above tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing a CFD career. I was fortunate that I discovered the field when I was an undergraduate student, but don't be discouraged if you are already working in a different area of engineering. Some of the CFD gurus I respect the most started out their careers doing something entirely different.

Ready to learn more about CFD? Head back to the CFD tips and tricks page for more tips to use in your CFD career or to the Innovative CFD home page to browse the other topics.

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