Thole named Fellow of Royal Aeronautical Society


MechSE alumna Karen Thole was honored for research that has led to breakthroughs in the design of internal and external cooling components in gas turbine engines, leading to longer part life.

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Karen TholeMechSE alumnus Karen Thole (BSME 1982, MSME 1984) has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS).  Thole is a distinguished professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State University.  

Fellowship is the highest attainable level in the RAeS and is awarded to those who have made outstanding contributions to the aerospace profession.

Thole was recognized for her research in aeronautical engineering, which has led to breakthroughs in the design of internal and external cooling components in gas turbine engines that lead to longer part life. She also was recognized for founding and directing the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) Lab at Penn State, founded in 2012 through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Lab and Pratt & Whitney. The lab is designed to perform turbine heat transfer studies using a state-of-the-art test turbine, along with instrumentation development and additive manufacturing to advance turbine research. Thole also was recognized for her service on advisory boards for NASA and the Department of the U.S. Air Force as well as several National Academy of Engineering studies related to aviation propulsion systems. (credit: Penn State press release)

Thole is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). She has received numerous honors and awards during her career, from ASME, AIAA and others. She received MechSE’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013.

She served as head of the mechanical engineering department at Penn State from 2006 to 2021.

Thole will formally receive the award next year at the RAeS annual fellowship reception.

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This story was published December 1, 2023.