Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 10 - Mike Meehan - MAKE AN IMPACT - Part 3 of 3

So, let's dive a little bit into the whiteboard behind you, which is currently blank. It can be filled with your research. So, fluid mechanics, I said fluid dynamics because it just rolls off the tongue. But fluid mechanic, so give us a little overview, what are you actually doing?

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JESSE: So, let's dive a little bit into the whiteboard behind you, which is currently blank. It can be filled with your research. So, fluid mechanics, I said fluid dynamics because it just rolls off the tongue. But fluid mechanic, so give us a little overview, what are you actually doing? What are you researching? MIKE: Yes, so we study fundamental, just fluid mechanics for fluid dynamics problems. It's a wide range of applications right now. I mean, the primary one that I'm working on right now is more related to ?? 0:45> driven flows. And so, which I think most people intuitively get, say you have a smokestack, and there's hot gases coming out. Well, that's a buoyant jet because the gasses are hot, hot gases are lighter than the surrounding fluid, buoyancy drives upwards. And so that's one kind of like application. There's heat treatment processes that have a high temperature like burner that you may heat treat some kind of film. There's also wildfires, which my research group is a big part of trying to work and simulate those flows. Yeah, and so that's one of the primary things that we're working on right now. JESSE: So, kinda like I talked with Chris, are you researching the research or do you see, where you can start to apply what you're doing to actual fields? MIKE: Yeah, no. So, you can definitely see the application, whether or not like, you see the application tomorrow, someone picks up your research and utilizes it in their real skill flow. Not really, but like, you can see where it becomes applicable in the future. And my group currently, right now, we work on adaptive mesh refinement, which is basically a technique to help simulate more realistic flow that wasn't quite entirely just for academic purposes, if that makes sense. JESSE: Okay. So, I want to dive deeper into what you're doing. How can I get in there? So, you have to excuse me for forgetting the whole, the PhD, I'll say, academic track to work on your dissertation. Are you already started on that? Do you have to do like a group group research beforehand? Where are you in your process? MIKE: Yes, so I passed my subject preliminary exam, and so I still need the past my preliminary research exam. And so that preliminary research exam, usually you want to have done some research, but you're mostly showing that you're qualified to do research. And you've started to kind of poke away and make progress and you are doing good things. But you're not necessarily doing what you want for your thesis, per se. And so I'm only just finishing my second year right now. So, now, after I passed that, hopefully, past that research field, then we could then finish up some of the current work that's going on. And then my advisor, and I will sit down and talk about more just real focus that we want to nail down over the next two years that is interesting and impactful for the community. JESSE: And in going so far, what direction you're going, are you like, oh, yeah, I really want to do this or you have just no idea? MIKE: Oh, no, we definitely have an idea. It's just these things kind of take a while to maul over. We know, more or less, where things are going to go, what the exact direction, not entirely sure. But we have a sense of where we want to go with the current research, things seem to be progressing well and hopefully, we can keep on progressing and make an impact. JESSE: Okay. Yeah. So, I think the big question, and this is what we ask all five year olds, I think you're still at that point. I mean, you're already a pro triathlete so I'm going to give that to you whether you make a living from it or not, at least in my book, for what that's worth. MIKE: I'll take it. JESSE: So, I mean, what do you want to be when you grow up? MIKE: I mean, it's definitely a hard question. I think, as of right now, I think that being a professional triathlete, and trying to make it in the sport becomes less and less appealing every day. Not that I don't love it. I mean, that's the reason that I do it. I love competing, and just the people that I've met through the process has been really great. And I don't ever want to lose that. But I also see, not every case, but a lot of cases, it can be hard to transition from trying to just make it as a professional triathlete to transitioning to more of something that you want to do for the rest of your life. Because most of us triathlon, it's not, you're not going to make it the full time your life, just competing. So, I think being just a full time professional triathlete, and that would be the only thing that I did just doesn't seem all that appealing. I really do enjoy doing research. That's just one of the things that I enjoy doing. And it seems that, like I could pursue that for the rest of my life and that seems way more interesting. So, that would probably be more or less, where I see myself ending up being. But I don't ever see myself giving up in just being done doing triathlon or doing sport. JESSE: Is there an option for you to find, I’ll say like a private research position? Are you going to be like have to teach classes to also do research in like an academic setting? MIKE: Yeah, you don't have to. So, especially after you get a PhD, a lot of people get postdoctoral positions, which is basically a fancy way of saying, just do research. And whether or not that's still within the academic community, so a lot of times professor will hire a postdoc to help do research, help push along research and that's one option. But a lot of times, also, the industries and national laboratories require postdoc positions as well. So, definitely, there's plenty of positions and things to do after you get your degree. JESSE: So, I think I can remember this phrase right, I think, often, while I was doing undergrad, the phrase publish or perish came around a lot. MIKE: Yeah. JESSE: Do you experience that or how true would that be to you or does that hit home at all? MIKE: I see it a lot and people are constantly worried about that. But as long as you are making good progress with your research, I think things kind of fall out for themselves. I don't think that as a graduate student, it's really perish necessarily, like you should be working towards making a publication, making an impact on the community. But if you were going to graduate with your PhD, you're likely going to have one, two, maybe even a couple more than that research papers that you've published. But it also depends on what you're doing. I know, people that had to design - an entire experimental facility, and maybe they didn't necessarily write like three or four page papers, but they laid the foundation for a lot of work that come which is impactful for itself. I think mostly it happened, you see it more like at the professor level. Like if you're not publishing on a regular basis, I mean people look at that kind of oddly, like you should be making progress, helping the community and stuff. JESSE: One thing you keep mentioning, and I think of almost academic, sometimes it's like, people in an ivory tower working on their own problems. But I don't know how many times you mentioned four or five, six times, you keep mentioning having an impact on the community. So, what does that actually look like? MIKE: Yeah, I mean, it's hard to say for a number of reasons, like it depends on what you're doing. I think that making an impact, like it can be come from a various amounts of standpoint. So, you could have like a very, very direct impact. So, there's a research group here at CU that is doing methane detection, so they can detect methane leaks from faraway distances and that way, you don't have to be in - like, go into, like figure out if methane is actually there or not, you can detect it with a laser. So, that has an obvious immediate impact on like, the community, right? Because once you develop that tool, I mean, yeah, you might not produce like, a ton of papers from it, necessarily, but it's obviously impactful. So, that's like, one way you might see it. And another is like developing a computational tool, which is mostly the work that we do. And once you develop that tool, then you can utilize it to write a whole bunch of papers, and you can just study the heck out of everything. But developing that tool for the community they use for their problems, you can see that has, like an impact on the community as well. JESSE: Okay. I mean, is that-- One of the things I talked about, like when I coach athletes, but it really applies to everything is I refer to as like, a bag of whys. You have a series of things that drive you like your reason to compete maybe you want to prove somebody wrong, or you have aspirations of being the best or things like that. So, I'm curious about your, what I would refer to as your bag of whys for research. I mean, is there something that inspires you to move forward with the research? Like I said it's just seems like, the impact seems so crucial to like, what's coming out of your brain. And so I'm trying to figure out if there's something behind that. Yeah. So, if something kind of inspired that idea for you. MIKE: I just think it's fun. I mean, it's really cool seeing, like you do research to answer a question. And it's typically, hopefully a question that the community has not already answered. And that's cool, right? You can show that you did research and you were able to answer this question. How definitive it that answer is, well, I mean, that's always up to the scientific community. But yeah, I mean, I just think that is really interesting, at least to me. JESSE: Fair enough. MIKE: Yeah. JESSE: So, I’ll ask you the same thing I asked everybody and I don't know whether you watched Chris’ episode or not. But I asked everyone if they can only choose one thing to eat for recovery for the rest of your life; what do you choose? MIKE: I think most of the people that know me would probably know the answer to this, but most definitely pizza. I could eat that for all the meals for the rest of my life with no regrets. JESSE: See, now I have to give you a hard time because how do you eat pizza like I feel like there's this idea about, I'm not like shaming you. MIKE: There’s no shaming. JESSE: But just there's this idea about, I mean, you’re a professional athlete like, how can you eat pizza for recovery? Why aren't you eating a salad? Why is pizza your jam? MIKE: It's hard to say. I just love pizza. I mean it's not like I like dip my pizza in grease and eat it for every meal. There's usually, I like whenever I make them there's vegetables on it of sorts of any variety, there's some sort of meat and cheese and it seems like overall it's not terrible for you. I don't think it is. I'm still alive so. JESSE: Yeah as our slow and ?? 14:11> march towards death, we’re like oh, let's eat some pizza in the mean time, it'll help me feel better. MIKE: Yeah, exactly. JESSE: I took a dark turn there, I’m sorry about that. Mike, if people want to follow you in your somewhat in frequent postings, where can they find you? MIKE: Instagram or Facebook are usually the best ways. Definitely not Twitter. JESSE: What's your handle and what's your website? MIKE: It's @MilkMeMike for my Instagram and I think my website is MikeMeehanRacing@WordPress.WordPress. JESSE: I'll double check that it'll be on the screen. Before we go I do have to ask you, what's the deal with the Instagram handle? MIKE: It's a long story. Yeah. JESSE: Too long to me share for now. All right. Well, I appreciate you coming on today. MIKE: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. JESSE: Take care. Go to Part 1 Go to Part 2

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