Mclaurin Aerospace is proud to provide advanced engineering support and cutting-edge research for efforts critical to national space and defense capability. Our most important asset is our people. The Engineering Spotlight series highlights individual technical staff for their contributions to our customers’ missions and explores the personal stories that make our team diverse, connected, and engaged.
Mclaurin Aerospace maintains a robust student intern program to help develop and inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers. On occasion, exceptional students that complete their tenure as research interns are offered a full-time engineering position upon graduation. Mclaurin’s first such student researcher was Mary Arceneaux (née Suttles), a Demopolis, AL, native who moved to Huntsville at a young age and has been there ever since.
Arceneaux was exposed to the aerospace industry at a young age; both of her parents worked in the industry, and she grew up surrounded by the space and missile world. She attended the University of Alabama for her undergraduate degree and became an intern at Mclaurin the summer after her Sophomore year, working with a senior researcher on challenging problems in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD).
After her graduation from the University of Alabama and while continuing to work as a research assistant, she began graduate school at the University of Alabama in Huntsville specializing in novel CFD techniques applicable to NASA’s Space Launch System program.
“As I was working toward my graduate degree, I was encouraged to apply for a full-time position supporting the EV33 branch at NASA. I applied and got the job, and immediately started working with our NASA customer and prime contractor partner,” Arceneaux said.
“My job is to perform specialized analysis for NASA Marshall’s EV33 branch, which is the Aerosciences Branch, where I am part of the Aerothermodynamics Team.”
Arceneaux currently supports aerothermal analysis for NASA’s Space Launch System launch vehicle. Aerodynamic heating is a complex discipline, involving aerodynamics, materials science, thermodynamics, numerical analysis, and testing.
“I am able to take a complex geometry and mesh it, and our CFD codes can determine the heating rates on different areas of the vehicle. We can use this data to help ensure the thermal protection system (TPS) and other components don’t have any issue with heating during flight,” Arceneaux explained.
While working on a real-world application of the computational techniques she was studying as part of her academic research, Arceneaux continued toward her Master’s degree in engineering and completed it a short time thereafter. She reflects on how her ability to collaborate with experts in the field at Mclaurin and NASA were an asset to both her professional and academic careers.
“I absolutely love my job,” Arceneaux said. “Everyone on our team is always willing to help teach one another how to solve problems. Although I’ve been doing CFD for more than five years now, I am still far from an expert. Our team primarily uses a CFD code called Loci/CHEM which was developed at Mississippi State University.”
Arceneaux is looking forward to what she can do with and learn about Loci/CHEM in the future.
“Up to this point I have mostly just done external non-reacting flow, but recently I have been asked to help with some analyses that involve running the CHEM features in Loci/CHEM, like rocket plumes, to find out how they affect heating on the vehicle,” Arceneaux said.
“It’s always very satisfying to learn a new skill in the area you work so that [you] can be counted on to do more complex work in the future.”
By: Sarah Rainey, Mclaurin Aerospace