Dr. Elaine Oran Receives Presidential Rank Award
for Distinguished Senior Professional

4/3/2008 - 9-08r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

Dr. Elaine Oran, Senior Scientist for Reactive Flow Physics at the Naval Research Laboratory, is a recipient of the 2007 Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Senior Professional. Annually, the President recognizes a small group of career Senior Executives with the President's Rank Award for exceptional long-term accomplishments. Winners of this prestigious award are strong leaders, professionals, and scientists who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service.

The Presidential Rank Award honors Dr. Oran for the successful application of reactive-flow technology to explain one of the most fundamental questions of combustion science: how a turbulent flame can suddenly become a much more dangerous, supersonic, shock-driven reactive flow called a detonation. Dr. Oran and her colleagues have shown how this phenomenon could be used or avoided, as required for different applications to advanced propulsion, and energy generation, or safe energy storage.

Reactive flows are made up of complex materials -- gases, liquids, or solids, even combinations of these -- that change chemically as they move through space and interact with their boundaries. Engines in automobiles, airplanes, and rocket motors produce energy from controlling the reactive flows with burning fuel. The earth's atmosphere is a reactive flow driven by winds and solar heating. Stars are reactive flows in very intense gravitational fields that burn hydrogen to form helium and then heavier elements, and dramatically exploding to form even heavier elements. Dr. Oran leads a group of NRL researchers that studies reactive flows in which there is intense energy release from chemical or nuclear reactions. Her work is aimed at increasing chemical efficiency when the flows are used as energy sources, controlling flow behavior to optimize the flow when it is used for propulsion and directed explosives, or finding ways to mitigate the danger when the presence or use of these flows presents serious safety issues. Recent applications of her work have provided guidelines for improving efficiency and speed of engines for high-speed flight and ensuring safety of stored explosives.

For her seminal work, Dr. Oran has received a number of distinguished honors and awards, including:

  • The Zeldovich Gold Medal of the Combustion Institute
  • Fellow of the American Physical Society
  • Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
  • Election to the Hall of Fame of Women in Technology International
  • Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers
  • Adjunct and visiting professorships at the University of Michigan and Leeds University (UK)
  • Honorary Professor of Physics, University of Wales
  • Election to the National Academy of Engineering
  • Selection as Editor-in-Chief of the AIAA Journal, the flagship journal of AIAA
  • Distinguished honorary degree, Docteur Honoris Causa, from the Ecole Centrale de Lyon.
  • Delivery of the Louis Clark Vanuxem Public Lecture at Princeton University
  • Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers

In 2003, Dr. Oran received the Meritorious Presidential Award for her leading role in the invention and development of a computer-based methodology for solving reactive-flow problem.

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