Dr. James “Jacy” Bird is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Boston University. He received a Masters of Engineering Science in Coastal Engineering from James Cook University in Australia and a Masters in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University. He earned a PhD in Engineering Science from Harvard University as well and completed an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the faculty at Boston University. Jacy has received a number of awards and honors during his career, including a Fulbright Scholarship and an NSF CAREER Award. Jacy is here with us today to tell us all about his journey through life and science.
People Behind the Science Podcast Show Notes
Life Outside of Science
Jacy, his wife, and their three children enjoy swimming, biking, and having fun with science.
The Scientific Side
His lab investigates fluid dynamics of drops and bubbles. They examine how they form, evolve over time, and how they ultimately break up.
A Dose of Motivation
“There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. Its knack lies in learning to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
What Got You Hooked on Science?
Jacy remembers being a particularly curious kid. His parents really supported his curiosity by doing things like letting him install a wind tunnel in the sunroof of their car so he could compare drag of different things when they were driving on the highway or giving up the last coffee filter so he could explore separations of things like ketchup and mustard.
The Low Points: Failures and Challenges
For an experiment, Jacy was trying to get a drop to wet onto a surface (spread out, rather than bead up). This was a frustrating because the drops were deforming into a cone shape right before hitting the surface instead of falling as spheres. He discovered this was due to static charges and had to redesign the experiment to ground the system and start all over.
A Shining Success!
Jacy had been working with colleagues on a paper for a long time and it had gone through many revisions before it was finally accepted. Not only was it accepted, but it received a lot of favorable media attention and was featured on the cover of Nature! When it came out, Jacy took his family to a nearby newsstand to buy their very own copy of this prized issue.
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Visual Complex Analysis by Tristan Needham
Most Treasured Travel
As part of a Fulbright Fellowship, Jacy was able to spend a full year working in Australia near the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef. He remembers how exotic it seemed to look out the office window and see kangaroos jumping by and cockatiels flying around.
Quirky Traditions and Funny Memories
It has become a tradition in Jacy’s lab to occasionally have “Fast Camera Day”. They have ultra high speed cameras that the laboratory uses for research, but on these special days, lab members are allowed to film whatever piques their curiosity. Previous slow motion footage includes popping popcorn and ignition of a lighter.
Advice For Us All
Seize the day, live with no regrets, and have fun!
Jacy Bird’s current research interests are broadly in fluid dynamics with a specific focus on the capillary dynamics of drops and bubbles. Combining both experiments and theory, he investigates problems such as how drops spread on surfaces and how bubbles pop. His research is motivated by problems in a variety of fields, including healthcare (e.g. virus transfer via droplets), energy (e.g. boiling and condensation), and materials (e.g. foams).