Mechanical Engineering

Contact Information

Higgins Laboratories, 244
Phone: +1-508-831-5576
Fax: +1-508-831-5680

Nikolaos A. Gatsonis

Nikolaos A. Gatsonis received an undergraduate degree in Physics at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, Greece (1983), an M.S. in Atmospheric Science at the University of Michigan (1996), an M.S. (1987) and a Ph.D. (1991) in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department of MIT.  From 1991 to 1993 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Space Department of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.  In 1994 he joined the Mechanical Engineering faculty at WPI, promoted to Associate Professor in 2000 and to Professor in 2005.   He was appointed Director of the Aerospace Program in 2000 and Associate Department Head of Mechanical Engineering in 2007-2010.  He is the founding Director of WPI’s BS program in Aerospace Engineering.

Active in research throughout his career, he has been pursuing modeling, simulation and experimentation of multiscale liquid, gaseous and plasma flows. In addition, he has been developing plasma diagnostics with applications to spacecraft micro-propulsion. He participated in several space flight programs -including international ones- as well as ground experiments. He has published more than eighty journal and conference proceedings papers.  He has advised nineteen graduate Masters theses, six Ph.D. dissertations, and forty-five undergraduate senior design theses (Major Qualifying Projects). He has supported two postdoctoral fellows and several visiting international scholars from Japan, Russia and Europe. Professor Gatsonis has taught at WPI numerous undergraduate and graduate courses and has been involved in K-12 outreach activities through NASA’s Space Grant Consortium.

Research Interests

Professor Gatsonis’ recent focus involves the development of multiscale, multi‐resolution, numerical methods for fluids.  The modeling and computational requirements for such flows can be addressed with the increased sophistication of numerical methods and computational power.  One example, involves development of computational methods for mesoscopic fluids, those with spatial and temporal scales above atomistic and below macroscopic.  A second example, involves the development of particle-based, fluid-based, and hybrid-based (particle/fluid) methods for gases and partially ionized plasmas that exhibit continuum and rarefied regions.  Applications involve fluidic devices/processes from the nanoscale to macroscale which cover a wide range of applications.


  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 1986 ‐1991
  • Ph.D. in Physics of Fluids and Plasmas, Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Sept., 1991
    Dissertation “Electrodynamics of the Plasma Environment Induced Around Spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit: Three‐dimensional Theory and Numerical Modeling,” Advisor, Prof. D. E. Hastings.
  • M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics, September, 1987
    Thesis “Theory and Numerical Analysis of Plasma Clouds Surrounding Space Systems in Low Earth Orbit,” Advisor Prof. D. E. Hastings.
  • The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1984 ‐1986 
  • M.S. in Atmospheric Science, May, 1986
  • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece, 1979 ‐1983  

Featured Publications

  • Gatsonis, N.A, Al Kouz, W., Chamberlin, R.E., “Investigation of Rarefied supersonic flows into rectangular nanochannels using a three‐dimensional direct simulation Monte Carlo method,” Physics of Fluids, 22, 2010.
  • Gatsonis, N.A. and Spirkin, A., “A Three‐dimensional Electrostatic Particle‐in‐Cell Methodology on Unstructured Delaunay‐Voronoi Grids”, Journal of Computational Physics, Vol. 228, No. 10, June 2009, Pages 3742‐37613, 2009.
  • Chamberlin, R.E. and Gatsonis, N.A., “Numerical Modeling of Gas Expansion from Microtubes,ʺ Journal of Nanoscale and Microscale Thermophysical Engineering, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 170‐185, 2008.
  • Gatsonis, N.A, Byrne. L., Zwahlen, J., Pencil, E., Kamhawi, H., “Current‐Mode Triple and Quadruple Langmuir Probe Methods with Applications to Flowing Pulsed Plasmas,” IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, 32, 5, pp. 2118‐2129, October 2004.

Professional Highlights

  • George I. Alden Chair in Engineering, 2007-2010
  • WPI Trustees Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship, 2004
  • Norton/Saint Cobain Award in Recognition of Leadership in Integrated Graduate and Undergraduate Research, Mechanical Engineering, WPI, 1998-99
  • Morgan Distinguished Instructorship in Mechanical Engineering, WPI, 1995
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