Guillermo Paniagua receives Humboldt Research Award to share expertise in Germany

Guillermo Paniagua, professor of mechanical engineering, has received the prestigious Humboldt Research Award, and will move to Germany for six months to research at Technical University of Darmstadt.


Better together

Dr. Paniagua leads the Purdue Experimental Turbine Aerothermal Laboratory (PETAL), located at Zucrow Labs. It's one of the world's most advanced testing facilities for turbine aerothermal research, and Paniagua has been recognized multiple times for his contributions to turbine aerodynamics and heat transfer. But he says there are always opportunities to learn more.

"I know almost all the turbomachinery labs in Europe," Paniagua said. "But I was particularly impressed when I visited TU Darmstadt in 2019. Their facilities are amazing, and they share the same values we have here at Purdue. Also, we both work so closely with Rolls-Royce."

Paniagua's collaborator at TU Darmstadt is Prof. Heinz-Peter Schiffer; both Schiffer and Paniagua lead Rolls-Royce University Technology Centers on their respective campuses. "They deal primarily with combustor-turbine interactions, while we focus on aerodynamics of high-speed small-size turbines," said Paniagua. "Being together will help us develop many new ideas. We are going to be a great combination."

While in Germany, Paniagua also plans to work with Prof. Dieter Peitsch at TU Berlin and Prof. Damian Vogt at University of Stuttgart, researching combustor technology concepts, including hydrogen-based combustors. "I plan on learning a lot from them," said Paniagua. "We have worked together on some small projects in the past, but we want to collaborate more deeply in the future, bringing German students here and sending Purdue students to Germany."

The timing is right

"I was planning for a sabbatical around 2019," said Paniagua. "Unfortunately, when COVID hit in 2020, we had to keep pushing those plans forward. When this opportunity came about for the Humboldt Award in 2021, I was very humbled to accept it. Being on sabbatical means I can focus 100% on research."

There will be some things to get used to, such as managing his Purdue projects from overseas. But like his heat transfer colleague Amy Marconnet (also a Humboldt winner currently researching in Germany), he discovered that COVID has acclimated everyone to conducting activities remotely. "If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said it's impossible to go," he said. "But we've all learned how to have meetings remotely and share our work online. It's not ideal, and I really like to know everything going on in the lab, so I will likely fly back to Purdue a few times to check in on everything. But our PETAL lab is so busy, that our wind tunnels will be operating nonstop for the whole year."

About the Humboldt Award

Named for the 19th-century Prussian scientist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, the Humboldt Research Award recognizes internationally leading researchers whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or findings have had a lasting effect on their discipline beyond their immediate research area and who are expected to continue producing outstanding research in the future. Winners are invited to spend up to one year collaborating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a research institution in Germany.


Writer: Jared Pike,, 765-496-0374

Source: Guillermo Paniagua,