Leeanna Meadows, Rani W Sullivan, Kevin Brown, Vipul Ranatunga, Keith Vehorn and Steven Olson

For their paper: “Distributed optical sensing in composite laminates”, published in the Journal of Strain Analysis  2017, Vol 52(7) 410-421, nominated by Professor David Nowell, Editor, Journal of Strain Analysis.

The paper investigated the area of smart structures in the development of structural health monitoring techniques for advanced composite aerospace structures. The research team used optical fibres to gain knowledge of the deformation response from within laminated polymer composite structures for the purpose of developing accurate predictive models and to improve the design, manufacture and maintenance of these complex structures.

This paper reflects the research conducted during a 2016 Summer Faculty Fellowship at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in America. Sullivan and her graduate student used the excellent research facilities and resources at the AFRL and worked with a great team of engineers who supported the project and encouraged the research described in the paper. 

Sullivan said the process of conducting the research and writing the paper was an authentic collaboration between all co-authors and that they have maintained this synergistic relationship since the paper was published.

Sullivan said she was shocked to have won the award: “I actually deleted the initial email informing me of the award - I thought it was a scam.  Three months later, I received a letter confirming the award and I quickly informed my co-authors. We are all absolutely delighted, humbled, and honoured to have our work recognised in this manner.

“Additionally, for me, this award has created incredible opportunities to foster international collaborative relationships.”

“I want to do work with relevance – research that can be applied to advanced composite structures in practical applications. These lightweight composite structures, which are increasingly being used as primary load carrying members, have complex strain responses and failure mechanisms. I want to use current technology (optical fiber sensing) to develop methods that enable us to have “eyes” inside these complex structures.

“The freedom to select my research areas and the ability to work with creative and ingenious individuals both in and out of the classroom are the main reasons I enjoy being an academic, and I would like to tell future engineers to experience as many professional opportunities during their academic career as possible – find mentors, become one yourself and be a respectful team player.”


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