Alexander Smits

Alexander Smits
Eugene Higgins Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Emeritus
Senior Scholar
D224 Engineering Quadrangle
Faculty Assistant
Tom Wing

Research Area(s)

Fluid Mechanics

Short Bio

Member of the National Academy of Engineering.  Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Australasian Fluid Mechanics Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  

Dr. Smits’s research interests are centered on fundamental, experimental research in turbulence and fluid mechanics. Particular aspects include Reynolds numbers scaling of turbulent flows, the effects of roughness; bio-inspired propulsion; drag reduction using liquid-infused porous surfaces; the behavior of turbulent flows at supersonic and hypersonic speeds; sports ball aerodynamics, and the development of new and improved measurement techniques.

He is the co-author (with J.P. Dussauge) of “Turbulent Shear Layers in Compressible Flow,” Springer-Verlag, 1996 (2nd edition, 2005), author of “A Physical Introduction to Fluid Mechanics,” John Wiley & Sons, 2000, and co-editor (with T.T. Lim) of “Flow Visualization: Techniques and Examples,” Imperial College Press, 2000 (2nd edition, 2011), as well as the author or co-author of more than 400 journal articles and papers in conference proceedings. He holds patents on testing the aerodynamics of golf balls, and on using femtosecond lasers in eye surgery and tattoo removal.  Dr. Smits received the Aerodynamic Measurement Technology Award from AIAA in 2014, and an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from University of Melbourne in Australia, in 2011. In 2009, he received the Médaille de la Ville de Marseille. In 2007, he received the Fluids Engineering Award from the ASME, and the Pendray Aerospace Literature Award from the AIAA, as well as the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching from Princeton University. In 2004, Dr. Smits received the Fluid Dynamics Award of the AIAA. He was the Chair of the Division of Fluid Dynamics of the American Physical Society in 2007-2008. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the AIAA Journal, an Associate Editor of the Journal of Turbulence, and he is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Experimental and Thermal Fluid Science  He is a past Associate Editor of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Physics of Fluids. From 1995 to 1999, he served as Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Experimental and Thermal Fluid Science, and he is a Chief Editor,, a specialty web portal for students and researchers in fluid dynamics. 

Selected Publications

  • Smits, A. J., McKeon, B. J. and Marusic, I. “High Reynolds number wall turbulence,” Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, Vol. 43, pp. 353-375, 2011

  • Quinn, D. B., Lauder, G. V. and Smits, A. J. “Maximizing the efficiency of a flexible propulsor using experimental optimization.” Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Vol. 767, pp. 430-448, 2015.

  • Vallikivi, M., Ganapathasubramani, B. and Smits, A. J., “Spectral scaling in boundary layers and pipes at very high Reynolds numbers.” Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Vol. 771, pp. 303-326, 2015.

  • Hartl, K. A. and Smits, A. J., “Scaling of a small scale burner fire whirl,” Combustion and Flame, Vol. 163, pp. 202-208, 2016.

  • Rosenberg, B. J., Van Buren, T., Fu, M. K., and Smits, A. J. “Turbulent drag reduction of air- and liquid-impregnated surfaces.” Physics of Fluids, Vol. 28, 015103, 2016.

  • Hellström, L. H. O., Marusic, I. and Smits, A. J., “Self-similarity of the large-scale motions in turbulent pipe flow.” Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Vol. 792, R1, 2016.

  • Floryan, D., Van Buren, T., Rowley, C. W. and Smits, A. J., “Scaling the propulsive performance of heaving and pitching foils.” Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Vol. 822, pp. 386-397, 2017.