Alastair Blanshard

  • Department of Aerospace
  • Supervisors: Professor C. Allen, Mr D. Poole
  • Project: An efficient optimisation architecture

Exponential growth in computing power has driven relentless evolution in the field of computational aerodynamic optimisation. This generates a huge variety of opportunities for interesting research projects in the area; in particular I found the use of ideas rooted in the natural world appealing. In my project I was able to use optimisers originally based on Darwinistic evolution, the movement of flocks of birds and a surrogate model which was originally conceived to echo the nervous system.

For my Masters research project I used these concepts to create an efficient system to optimise aerofoil shapes. Modern computational fluid dynamic (CFD) codes are used to calculate the aerodynamic properties of geometries, but can be fiendishly complex and take many hours to run. The goal of the project was to create an effective architecture for optimisation algorithms and a metamodel. This was then used to reduce the number of times the CFD code had to be run to significantly improve the aerofoil’s aerodynamic properties.

The freedom in choosing the area to research, as well as the continual support of my supervisors made this a rewarding experience, while the expertise and resources of the department made Bristol the ideal environment to work in. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Raoul Hafner prize for this project, as well as making the shortlist for the international undergraduate awards.


After a year spent working in the NHS and travelling in South America I started studying Engineering at Bristol in 2010. I enjoyed the specific aeronautical focus of the course content, but with the flexibility to choose from a variety of subjects in the later years. In particular I enjoyed complementing the core aeronautical subjects with modules in future power generation and wind and marine technologies. Outside my degree I ran with the cross country society and climbed in the gorge. In 2014 I graduated with a first class masters, and spent the summer cycling from Vancover BC to Los Angeles. I have subsequently started working at PA consulting, which allows me to apply many of the technical skills I gained during my degree in a business environment.

Alastair Blanshard, Aerospace Engineering (MEng)
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