Guerin flies high with structural dynamics research

Tags: Astronaut scholarship, engineering mechanics, Lorraine Guerin, student

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Photo of Lorraine Guerin with Brewster Shaw

Brewster Shaw presents Lorraine Guerin with her award from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Photo: Renee Meiller.

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Lorraine Guerin is no stranger to difficult languages. The University of Wisconsin-Madison senior, a double major in Latin and engineering mechanics and astronautics, is a 2015 recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s annual scholarship.

Guerin received the scholarship after being nominated by her advisor, Matt Allen, for her research on nonlinear vibrations. The research required a high level of understanding of the language of vibrations — the physics of oscillating motion. Specifically, Guerin studied the vibrations of thin members, such as the metal panels that form airplane wings.

The vibrations are difficult to predict, Guerin says.

“The driver of my research is that it’s hard to analyze and predict the response in wing panels,” Guerin says. “My research will hopefully help industry by allowing us to understand the vibrations a little bit better.”

Guerin, from Verona, Wisconsin, will graduate in spring 2016. She hopes to continue her research in graduate school and plans to apply to several master’s programs in aerospace engineering in the next couple months.

“I’ll eventually try to get a job in industry or in a research lab,” Guerin says, adding that her study of Latin has been more for personal enjoyment than anything.

Photo of Brewster Shaw's talk at UW-Madison

Brewster Shaw speaks to a standing-room-only audience at UW-Madison. Photo: Renee Meiller.

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The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was founded more than 30 years ago by the surviving Mercury 7 astronauts—the so-called “Original Seven” astronauts of the early U.S. space program. The foundation continues to be led by subsequent generations of American astronauts. It awards scholarships to students from 32 member research universities across the country who conduct research in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

“I really appreciate that professionals are willing to provide incentive for students to challenge themselves,” Guerin says.

Guerin was nominated by her research advisor; the scholarship is helping pay her tuition this year.

“Receiving the scholarship has been really important to me,” Guerin says. “It reinforces my willingness to try new research on a difficult topic. Through research, we are able to gain some understanding of wing panel vibrations or some other area of study. When many of these studies are compiled together, we are eventually able to help industry and society by improving some process or some component with our findings. In the end, it’s all about being innovative and embracing the Wisconsin motto: Forward.”

Guerin was recognized during a dinner on October 22, 2015. Brewster Shaw (BS EMA, ’68, MS ’69), who led several space shuttle missions in the 1980s, spoke at the event and presented Guerin with her award.

Will Cushman