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The University of Southampton
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Dr Christina Vanderwel BSc, MASc, PhD

Lecturer in Experimental Fluid Mechanics

Dr Christina Vanderwel's photo

Dr Christina Vanderwel is a Lecturer and Marie Curie Research Fellow in the Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics Research Group at the University of Southampton.

She specialises in experimental fluid mechanics, turbulence, and dispersion. In particular, her research involves conducting laboratory experiments using laser-based diagnostics to study the mechanisms of transport of turbulent flows.


2014: PhD in Mechanical Engineering, “Turbulent Diffusion in Uniformly Sheared Flow”, University of Ottawa, Canada. *Winner of the Pierre Laberge Award for outstanding achievement in Science and Engineering.

2009: MASc in Mechanical Engineering, “Coherent Structures in Uniformly Sheared Turbulent Flow“, University of Ottawa, Canada.

2007: BSc (Hons.) in Mechanical Engineering, Queen’s University, Canada.




Research interests

My research focusses on studying the mechanisms of mass and momentum transport in turbulent flows. My aim is to understand how coherent structures are fundamental building blocks of turbulence and how they contribute to the enhanced mixing and dispersion associated with turbulent flows.


Experimental Fluid Mechanics Lab

The University of Southampton has a wide selection of experimental fluid mechanics facilities which includes several wind tunnels, water tunnels, and a large towing tank, located in the Tizard Building on Highfield Campus and the new development at Bolderwood campus. These facilities can generate a variety of flows, including flows over custom landscape models, turbulent boundary layers, shear flows and flows around different structures. Laser-based diagnostics such as particle image velocimetry (PIV) provide measurements of the flow velocity field. In addition, we are always working on developing and improving the technique of planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) to measure the concentration of fluorescent dyes released in the flow.

The water tunnel flow facility
The water tunnel flow facility

Dispersion in turbulent flows

In a world with increased urbanisation and industrialisation, pollution is a global problem with a serious impact on health and climate that crosses political boundaries. However, in order to improve methods of tracing and predicting the movement of pollution in the atmosphere and waterways, we need to better understand the fundamental mechanisms of transport in turbulent flows. This can be best accomplished in the lab where we can impose ideal conditions and utilise state-of-the-art measurement techniques. In particular, planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) is a powerful technique for quantitatively measuring the concentration of fluorescent dye released in turbulent flow using non-obtrusive methods. Using PLIF, we can measure the dispersion of a fluorescent dye acting as a proxy for pollution in a range of flows including channel flows, flows over complex terrain, industrial flows, and flows simulating indoor ventilation systems.

PLIF measurement of a passive plume in a uniform turbulent flow
PLIF measurement of a passive plume in a uniform turbulent flow

The structure of turbulent shear flows and boundary layers

Turbulent flows consist of a range of scales of vortices and eddies where the largest most-dominant repeating vortex patterns are known as coherent structures. Coherent structures act as mechanisms for turbulent transport and contain a substantial proportion of the turbulence energy. This research is interested in identifying the large-scale structures of different turbulent flows and how they vary due to the flow conditions. Flows of interest range from idealised turbulent shear flows to turbulent boundary layers developing over complex surfaces. Application of this research includes pollution transport modelling, drag prediction, and weather forecasting.

PIV image of the boundary layer flow over a complex surface
PIV image of the boundary layer flow over a complex surface

Research group

Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics

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Dr Christina Vanderwel
Engineering, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton. SO17 1BJ United Kingdom

Room Number: 176/5015/B1

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