Student Profile: Matt Fowler
Matt Fowler Preparing for Future in Offshore Wind Energy
Offshore wind is a rapidly developing new source of renewable energy, and researchers at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center have been modeling and testing floating offshore wind turbines for nearly a decade. Matt Fowler is a Ph.D. student from Presque Isle, Maine who is working on floating offshore wind turbines under the direction of Dr. Andrew Goupee.
Fowler received his BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Maine, and proceeded to join the private sector workforce. He worked in the structural analysis department for General Dynamics Electric Boat, well known for designing and building nuclear submarines for the US Navy. While there, Fowler kept up with events at the UMaine Composites Center, and after talking with peers and Dr. Goupee, he decided to return for his Master’s degree.
“I was working down in Connecticut and I was keeping tabs on things here. Some of my friends stayed and got their Master’s working with Dr. Goupee. They told me I should really check out what was going on at the center. I contacted Dr. Goupee and decided I wanted to come back and do my Master’s. Dr. Goupee was the one who motivated me to come back here,” Fowler said.
Fowler chose to work on offshore wind and was quickly involved with some significant testing projects with the center, including a 1:50 scale test of a model semi-submersible platform at the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) in 2013.
He also worked with Sandia National Lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico on a coupled analysis code for offshore wind turbines. That work led to a paper Fowler co-authored with colleagues at Sandia and presented at the 2014 International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering Conference (OMAE). The work later won a best paper award for the Renewable Energy Symposium.
“We developed a coupled analysis code for offshore wind turbines; we presented a paper on it at OMAE and they selected it as best paper in that section,” Fowler said. “It was nice to see that collaborative effort recognized.”
Fowler has since completed his MS, and is working towards his Ph.D.. He is currently working on modeling and testing semi-submersible offshore wind platforms.
“I’m working on everything involved in getting the model tests ready, including designing the test matrix, and I’m physically going out into the lab and building the model; basically everything we need to do a model test.”
The models test will culminate with the completion of the W2 facility, where Fowler and his team hope to re-create the tests completed at the MARIN facility four years ago.
“We want to re-run the tests using the semi-submersible because we have it here. Doing these tests in the W2 will verify the fact that we can successfully do these tests in this facility,” Fowler said.
In addition to the engineering aspect of the offshore wind turbines, Fowler is also pursuing his MBA.
“I’m also doing my MBA with my Ph.D. I’m working on the business side too, trying to see how engineering knowledge can work its way into the business field,” Fowler said.
Over time, Fowler has discovered that gaining public support for offshore wind will be important to the growth of the field.
“The biggest challenge is getting people on board with an idea. If you can get public support behind an idea you can do a lot with it.”
Fowler has credited his ability to get back into pursuing advanced degrees in the field of engineering to Dr. Goupee’s mentorship, as Dr. Goupee was his advisor for both his MS and Ph.D.
“I have to see a problem and then dissect it down and get to the point where I really understand what’s wrong in order to come up with a solution. Dr. Goupee has been really great at identifying projects to work on where I feel like I actually build the final result,” Fowler said.
When considering his plans for after school, Fowler was adamant about supporting renewable energy and engineering projects. His ability to run simulations and his familiarity with the equipment at the center has heightened his interest in possibly returning to the center as a staff member following his degree completion.
“I’ve talked to Dr. Goupee about continuing at the center. If there’s a need when the W2 comes online, I would be very willing to stay on. It all depends on what the organization needs when I finish my degree.”
Fowler’s connection to the center has been a very positive experience for him, made even better by the energetic and helpful staff.
“I want to recognize the fact the Dr. Goupee is the reason why I came back. His enthusiasm and spark was what excited me to embark on this project and stay on to a Ph.D. It’s not something you can just casually do. He was really supportive,” Fowler said on his experience at the center. “It’s people like that, who take time out of their schedules to show people around, we need to maintain that sort of thing. Without that, I wouldn’t be here.”