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Notre Dame boasts a long tradition of excellence and innovation in aerospace research. In fact, some of the wind tunnel technology used today in federal, industrial, and academic laboratories can be traced to the work of University faculty, such as Professor Albert F. Zahm, who developed the first hand-driven wind tunnel in the country and suggested a better way to launch an aircraft and control its flight; Professors Frank N.M. Brown and Robert S. Eikenberry, who not only built a revolutionary smoke tunnel with a rake and screen feature but were also the first to visualize Tollmien-Schlichting waves; and Professor Vincent P. Goddard, who built the world’s first supersonic smoke tunnel. Much of this work was accomplished in the “aero shack,” which was adjacent to the Joyce Center.

Today, the Notre Dame tradition continues in the Hessert Laboratory for Aerospace Research, which recently celebrated 15 years of service to the University and its research partners. Since the early days of aeronautics at Notre Dame, the College of Engineering has developed a cadre of faculty who are still making their mark on a number of industries, including aerospace and transportation. The 38,000-sq.-ft. Hessert Laboratory, named for its benefactors Thomas J. and Marilyn Hennebry Hessert, contains cutting-edge facilities, such as the Advanced Performance Compressor Laboratory, the Gas-Turbine Laboratory, the Aero-optics Clean Room, the Particle Dynamics Laboratory, the Plasma Flow Control Laboratory, an anechoic chamber, a Mach .05 low-disturbance wind tunnel, an atmospheric wind tunnel, a planar jet facility, high-speed supersonic and transonic wind tunnels, and dedicated machine and electronic shops.

It is also home to the Center for Flow Physics and Control, created specifically to continue to develop techniques for modifying fluid flows — through aero-acoustics, aero-optics, fluid-structure interactions, multiphase flows, gas-turbine engines, and flow control — for important applications through multidisciplinary activities.

For more information about the Hessert Laboratory, visit

Attendees of the 15th anniversary celebration of the Hessert Laboratory for Aerospace Research echo a pose from the groundbreaking of the building in 1990. From left to right are Stephen M. Batill, professor and chair of the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; Professor Flint O. Thomas; Professor Robert C. Nelson; Marilyn Hennebry Hessert; and Thomas J. Hessert (B.S., Commerce ’48), founder and former president of the T.J.H. Investment Company; and Roth-Gibson Professor Emeritus Thomas J. Mueller. The facility was dedicated in November 1991 during the University’s sesquicentennial activities.

Aerodynamicist Albert F. Zahm was the first professor of mechanical engineering at the University. He also built the first hand-driven wind tunnel in the United States and organized the first International Aeronautical Congress, which was held in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair. Known on-campus for his late-night glider flights, which were launched from the roofs of University buildings, Zahm had a tremendous influence on the history of aerospace research in the U.S. In fact, he was the first to discuss a modern method of launching an airplane and controlling its flight — by rotating parts of the wings to balance it laterally while using a double tail to decrease pitching and yawing. He also made contributions to aerospace research at the University. It is a tradition that continues today.