Engineering Speaker Series: Diandra Leslie-Pelecky
(College of Engineering)
Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, Author of The Physics of NASCAR: How to Make Steel+Gas+Rubber=Speed
"The Science of Speed: Why Driving Fast is Harder Than You Think"
Is it really all that hard to drive fast? No-if you assume a spherical racecar. If you think about the physics of a non-point particle turning highly banked corners at 3g on tires with coefficients of friction greater than one, you will quickly realize that there is far more to going fast than stepping on the accelerator. While the driver applies Newton's Laws on the track, a behind-the-scenes group of physicists and engineers are running computational fluid dynamics simulations, developing low-friction coatings, researching energy absorbing materials for safety, and even finding ways to use oranges to reduce flexion losses in tires.
Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, author of The Physics of NASCAR and the motorspots blog Building Speed, shows why you cannot win races without getting the math and science right. Although race car drivers may not use terms like 'impulse' or 'friction,' the best of them develop a strong gut-level understanding of the rules of physics. As one driver told her "If I'd only realized that racing was really just math and science, I would have paid more attention in school." The talk ends with a brief examination of how to use popular culture to get-and keep- people interested in math and science.
Diandra Leslie-Pelecky earned undergraduate degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of North Texas and a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from Michigan State University. She spent the majority of her twenty-year academic career as a nanomaterials research and educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research in magnetic nanomaterials was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. She developed fundamental understanding of magnetic materials as well as applications of nanomaterials to medical diagnosis and treatment processes such as magnetic resonance imaging and chemotherapy.
Leslie-Pelecky is nationally recognized for her work in science education and outreach at all levels, with projects primarily funded by the National Science Foundation. She is a popular speaker with technical and non-technical audiences, including addresses for the public sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, colleges and universities, science museums, and the American Physical Society. Her book, The Physics of NASCAR, was excerpted by TIME magazine and has been featured in publications from the Materials Research Bulletin to Sporting News. Her blog, Building Speed, focuses on the science of motorsports and is avidly read by NASCAR fans and insiders.
Diandra has written for and appeared in number of motorsports-related television broadcasts, including segments for ESPN (one of which won the 2010 Aflac Motorsports Journalism Award of Excellence) and an episode of the Emmy-winning series Quest for the Cup. She hosted and wrote the National Science Foundation project, The Science of Speed, and appeared in a segment for the H2 show Invisible. She is a bi-weekly guest on the SiriusXM Speedway satellite radio program where she uses science to debunk "NASCAR Myths" for motorsports fans.
Reception: 5 pm, Rady Room (601NH)