Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics


Mathematical Sciences

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Philip A. Yecko

Committee Member

Eileen Fernandez

Committee Member

Ashwin Vaidya


Physics--Study and teaching (Secondary), Physics--Computer-assisted instruction, Oil spills--Mathematical models, Oil spills-- Data processing


This thesis links an applied mathematics study of oil spill cleanup to a mathematics education study of the efficacy of virtual laboratory activities in physical and mathematical sciences. Oil spills will be investigated using a multi-phase Navier-Stokes Direct Numerical Simulation (DNS) code for magnetic fluids, also known as ferrofluids. Simulations model cases that are not possible to study in a laboratory experiment or in the real world. Simulation results show that scaling up this process involves fluid mechanical obstacles and that real world effects, such as seawater contamination, will also impact cleanup effectiveness. A physics laboratory classroom curriculum based on fluid dynamics virtual laboratory simulations is designed to provide an educational experience of oil spill cleanup without safety risks or other physical challenges, such as inaccessibly large or small length or time scales. Students’ development of intuition for fluid dyanmics, scaling and magnetic manipulation were tested, both directly and virtually. In-depth interviews indicate that a virtual lab provides a good substitute for a hands-on magnetic fluids lab of this type.

File Format


Included in

Mathematics Commons