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The word aerodynamics comes from two Greek words: aerios, meaning air, and dynamis, concerning the powerful.
Aerodynamics is an engineering physical science concerned with the interaction between bodies and the atmosphere and the study of the resulting forces and motion of objects through the air. If you have ever wondered why bikers wear spandex clothing; it has to do with aerodynamics. Also, the design trend in cars has been transformed from old square-box cars to new, sleek aerodynamic machines. However it is not only spandex and a slick car that aerodynamicists are concerned with but also aircraft and anything that moves.

In studying the relationship between the environment and physical things that move within it, aerodynamicists try to create vehicles that move quicker and easier. They also try to figure out why certain things move as they do. They research, design, develop, test, manufacture and maintain aerospace vehicles and systems such as commercial and military aircraft, helicopters, missiles, spacecraft and related aerospace equipment.

Other technological applications that aerodynamicists study and work with include hot-air balloons, parachutes, commercial vehicles, high speed trains, hypersonic waveriders, gliders, energy conversion systems, such as wind and gas turbines, and propellers and jet engines. Aerodynamics also affects things like the motion of a model rocket, a beach ball thrown near the shore or a kite flying high overhead. In fact, the curveball thrown by major league baseball pitchers gets its curve from aerodynamics. Since aerodynamics involves both the motion of the object and the reaction of the air, there are several aerodynamicists that devote their studies to basic gas properties and how those properties change through the atmosphere.

Aerodynamicists work at the front of technology, developing products that truly change the way we think about the world we live in. They work in teams with design engineers and use computers and wind tunnels to simulate flight and motion. Aerodynamicists may alternatively decide to specialize in studying a particular product such as airplanes, helicopters, racecars or kites. The commercial industry is always looking for more improved aircrafts cars and related products.

Aerodynamicists use computer-aided design (CAD), lasers and advanced electronic optics to assist them in research and design work and to help them analyze the effects and potential problems in the designs, such as malfunctions and breakdowns. In their research, they are also looking for factors such as velocity, gravity, speed, distance and other related motion factors. Due to the rapid pace of technology, aerodynamicists are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advances.
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  Interests and Skills  
Aerodynamicists must have creative, scientific, mathematical and inventive minds. They must demonstrate patience, motivation, determination and perseverance and have strong problem-solving skills. They must be excellent communicators and "team players", since research and design projects require the work of a number of people working together toward a common end product. Finally, they should be able to visualize problems in three dimensions and work well on computers.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Design and conduct research in all areas of aerodynamics
  • Carry out analysis of research data and prepare research reports
  • Participate as a member of a research or development team in the design and development of experimental, industrial or aerodynamic equipment, instrumentation and procedures
  • Conduct research to understand fundamental processes in aerodynamic nature and find practical applications
  • Conduct experiments with light, sound, heat, electricity and magnetism
  • Use the experiments to test and prove ideas, and to help develop new ideas in aerodynamics and physics
  • Design, build and test experimental equipment and instruments
  • Write reports on study results and present this information at conferences
  • Write papers for scientific journals
  • Aerodynamicists work primarily indoors in offices and testing laboratories. They spend a considerable amount of time working on computers, designing and researching. Aerodynamicists usually work standard hours but may be required to work longer hours to meet project deadlines. They may experience pressure and stress from time to time to meet deadlines.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Aerodynamicists work for electronic, electrical and aerospace manufacturing companies, telecommunications companies, power utilities, university and government research laboratories, hospitals, science museums and a wide range of other processing, manufacturing, and research and consulting firms.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Employment opportunities for aerodynamicists vary depending upon what type of degree they have. Those with bachelor's and master's degrees are more likely to be employed in design and development, teaching at the high school or college level, and administration or sales. Aerodynamicists with Ph.D.s are more likely to be involved in basic or applied research and teaching at the university level.

Advancement opportunities vary depending on the place of employment and type of work done by each individual aerodynamicist. Aerodynamicists involved in research, or research and development may become project supervisors, directors of research laboratories or managers of research departments. Some aerodynamicists eventually move into purely administrative or management positions. Another option is becoming a scientific writer or working at a science museum.

  Educational Paths  
Most aerodynamicists begin their postsecondary education with a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in physics, and then go on to earn a Master's and a Ph.D. degree in aerodynamics physics or a sub-discipline of physics. Aerodynamicists who wish to do original research generally need to obtain a Ph.D. and spend one to five years in post-doctoral research in a university or government laboratory. Some aerodynamicists may also be trained engineers.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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