Student Spotlight: Paula Doubrawa

Wind turbines operating during a field experiment

Cornell doctoral candidate Paula Doubrawa is on track to become a leading voice in the advancement of wind energy research in the Great Lakes region. Doubrawa was recently the lead author on a study that compiled meteorological wind data derived from several sources and assembled the first full observational wind atlas of the Great Lakes. The atlas bolsters the chances for developing wind energy in the region. Read about their work here.

What is your area of research?

I study fluid dynamics in the context of wind energy. My Ph.D. research addresses questions regarding wind measurements and modeling.

More specifically, I have developed methods to process and combine different wind speed data sets for offshore resource assessment. This is complex because of the temporal and spatial sparseness of offshore wind data.

In terms of modeling, I am bridging a gap between simplified, inexpensive wind turbine wake models and high-fidelity expensive ones. I am developing a spectral-statistical method to simulate wind turbine wakes with little computational cost yet with high enough accuracy to allow for turbine load analyses, which are relevant for several stages of wind development, e.g. turbine design, turbine control systems, and wind farm layout planning.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

Originally, the allure of weather and wind. I ended up in wind energy because I wanted to do research that had a direct and valuable application, and I am very happy to have made that choice because I really like my work.

Why is this research important?

The cutting edge research in wind energy, like what we do here at Cornell, is what drives the advances in industry. The ultimate outcome of our research is more efficient turbines (and wind power plants), which translates to lower energy costs thus promoting the ongoing transition towards renewable energy.

How has your background influenced your scholarship?

Wind energy is a very multi-disciplinary field. Having a background in atmospheric science and applying that towards an engineering degree rounds off my academic aspirations.

Doubrawa performing field research with her mentor.

What else has influenced your thinking as a researcher or scholar?

The way I approach a research question was certainly shaped by past experiences with mentors and peers, but also by non-academic life experiences that include an attitude for welcoming challenges, patiently persevering, and finally overcoming myself.

What other hobbies or activities do you enjoy in your spare time?

Rock climbing, salsa dancing, classic literature, and vegan cooking.

Why did you choose Cornell?

I was committed to wind energy and I wanted to work with Dr. R. Barthelmie, who is now my PhD advisor and a professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

What’s next for you?

After obtaining my PhD degree, I would like to continue my research as a post-doc for a couple of years and ultimately join an R&D group in the wind energy industry.

Any advice for incoming graduate students?

Pay close attention to the details — it shows how much you care and reflects the quality of your work.
Also, do not despair — no degree is worth your happy life.