Haibo Dong, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Ayodeji Bode-Oke
Ph.D. Student, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Class of 2019

The flight patterns of hummingbirds and dragonflies are works of art when seen through the eyes of an engineer— engaging, modernistic splashes of movement. But aerodynamic patterns might offer far more than beauty: By studying the physics behind these small creatures, aerospace engineers hope to create maneuverable air vehicles tiny enough to travel where humans cannot follow—through cracks in earthquake-damaged buildings, for example, looking for survivors.

So, starting in 2012, UVA Associate Professor Haibo Dong labored alongside his graduate students to capture wing patterns via high-speed photography and 3-D flow simulations. One day, an undergrad aerospace engineer wandered into that creative research space and stopped cold. That was second-year student Ayodeji Bode-Oke.

“I still remember the day,” Professor Dong says. “I could see the sparks in Ayodeji’s eyes when he saw the dragonfly videos we took in the lab.”

From then on, the intensely curious Ayodeji was an inseparable part of that research team—soaking in the active mentorship and lively exchange of ideas. From the publishing of research papers to presenting at conferences, Professor Dong pushed Ayodeji to continue asking how and why.

As a result of this hothouse of encouragement and challenge, Ayodeji chose to pursue his Ph.D. at UVA—all in hopes of taking what he’s learned back to his native Nigeria to help bring about significant change.

In Ayodeji’s opinion, UVA is “an ideal university, where students are taught to be well-rounded individuals, and where spaces have been set up to foster interactions that someday, somehow, will make the world a better place.”


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