Sean Copeland

Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics
Durand Building
Stanford, CA 94305


Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of Aeronautics & Astronautics, Stanford University, 2010-present.
M.S., Aeronautics & Astronautics, Stanford University, 2010.
B.S., Aerospace Engineering, University of California Los Angeles, 2008.

Further details can be found in my CV located here.

Research Interests

  • High-fidelity computational aerothermodynamics
  • Multi-scale analyses of gases in thermochemical nonequilibrium
  • Uncertainty quantification & robust design practices for thermal protection systems
  • High-mass entry vehicle design
  • Multidisciplinary design, analysis and optimization
  • Adjoint-based methods
  • Environmentally responsible commercial avaition

Current Research Focus

The development of a new high-fidelity computational tool to simulate gases in thermochemical nonequilibrium for use in predicting heat fluxes in entry environments that addresses modeling limitations in current aerothermal solvers, enabling more reliable predictive capabilities for a wide range of flight conditions.

Recent Work

Have pursued a formulation of the governing equations that differs from the drift-diffusion formulation prevalent in existing aerothermal solvers, such as DPLR and US3D, that solves mass, momentum, and energy transport for each chemical constituent. Interaction between chemical species is modeled using principles from kinetic theory and statistical mechanics, utilizing experimentally derived collision integrals and chemical nonequilibrium is modeled using Park's 1990 gas chemistry model.

Current efforts are focused on the development of the numerical methods necessary for robustness in the unstructured solver, while minimizing artifical dissipation wherever possible, and a sensible strategy for relaxing the stiffness of the mass, momentum, and energy source terms introduced by the formulation of the governing equations.

Ongoing work is focused on the formulation of the adjoint equations for the multi-species problem to enable goal-oriented mesh adaptation and error estimation for surface heat-flux predictions. Long-term research goals include the introduction of a sub-grid scale molecular dynamics solver to directly simulate the molecular interactions in regions of highest non-equilibrium (determined using the adjoint solver), leveraging the extensive body of work in material science and computational chemistry for interatomic potentials.


Copeland, S. R., Palacios, F., Alonso, J. J., "Adjoint-Based Goal-Oriented Mesh Adaptation for Nonequilibrium Hypersonic Flows," AIAA Paper 2013-0552, 51st AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting including the New Horizons Forum and Aerospace Exposition, Grapevine, Texas, January 7-10, 2013.
Palacios, F., Colonno, M. R., Aranake, A. C., Campos, A., Copeland, S. R., Economon, T. D., Lonkar, A. K., Lukaczyk, T. W., Taylor, T. W. R., Alonso, J. J., "Stanford University Unstructured (SU2): An open-source integrated computational environment for multi-physics simulation and design.," AIAA Paper 2013-0287, 51st AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting including the New Horizons Forum and Aerospace Exposition, Grapevine, Texas, January 7-10, 2013.
Copeland, S. R., Mahzari, M., Cozmuta I., Alonso, J., “A Statistics-Based Material Property Analysis to Support Ablation Simulation UQ Efforts,” AIAA Paper 2012-1763, 14th AIAA Non-Deterministic Approaches Conference, Honolulu, HI, April, 2012
Economon, T., Copeland, S., Alonso, J.J., Zeinali, M., Rutherford, D., "Design and Optimization of Future Aircraft for Assessing the Fuel Burn Trends of Commercial Aviation," AIAA Paper 2011-267, 49th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, Orlando, Florida, January, 2011.