Dr. John Sullivan:
Experimental Aerodynamics – Still Needed After all These Years

Event Date: April 24, 2014
Hosted By: OAA
Time: 3:00 PM
Location: ARMS 1109
Contact Name: Marsha Freeland
Contact Phone: 765-494-5349
Contact Email: mjfreeland@purdue.edu
Open To: ALL
Dr. John Sullivan


In 1975, John Sullivan arrived at Purdue University to teach and do research in the area of experimental aerodynamics. In the same year, Dean Chapman, the Director of Astronautics at the Ames Research Center, predicted that computational methods would supplant experimental aerodynamics in the aerodynamic design and testing process. In fact, Chapman under predicted the growth in Computational Fluid Dynamics but did not consider the need for detailed experiments to understand the complex flows uncovered as aircraft designs became more sophisticated. In the talk, I will review some of my research work and teaching in experimental aerodynamics over the last 40 years and consider future prospects.


John Sullivan is a Professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.  He received a BS in 1967 from the University of Rochester and a M.S. (1969) and Ph.D. (1973) in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduation, he co-founded a small high technology company in California that developed laser instrumentation.  In 1975 he sold the company and joined the faculty of Purdue University.

Sullivan has taught a wide variety of courses and started several new courses in fluid mechanics, aerodynamics measurement and design. Courses providing students a design/build/test experience are one of his passions including mentoring the AIAA Design/Build/Fly team. He directs graduate student research in the general area of experimental aerodynamics/fluid mechanics. He is internationally known for his work in molecular sensors that include pressure and temperature paint.  In 2004, Springer-Verlag published his book Pressure and Temperature Sensitive Paint co-authored with his student Dr. Tianshu Liu.  The book is now available in Chinese.  In addition to research papers, PhD and MS students, he has taught short courses for the Von Karman Institute and AIAA. Many of his students, in both academia and industry, are well known in the community and continue to expand the field of molecular sensors.

His administrative experiences at Purdue University include, Director of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing (2004-2012), Co-Director of the Product Lifecycle Management Center of Excellence, Head of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics (1993-1998), Associate Head (1991-1993) and Director of the Aerospace Sciences Laboratory (1983-1995). He spent a year sabbatical at the Office of Naval Research in 1989-90 and a year at the Boeing Company in 2002. From July 2006 to September 2009, he served was a special government employee, as a member of NASA advisory Council reporting to the NASA Administrator. Sullivan was on a two year assignment to NASA Headquarters as a Senior Technical Advisor from September 2010 to August 2012. He is a Fellow of AIAA.