Faces of FIFTY2

Loïc Wendling - Application Engineer

Hello Loïc, to kick things off, why don't you start by talking about your tasks at FIFTY2?

Sure. I’m an application engineer at FIFTY2 where I mostly work on thermodynamics. It’s a topic that I’ve explored during my Ph.D. and my master. I investigated various cooling systems and how to optimize them. It also involved understanding how heat moves from a fluid to a solid and the other way around.
As an application engineer, my main tasks at FIFTY2 are quality control and research.
The quality control part is to make sure that PreonLab is computing physical phenomena properly, which is achieved by finding benchmarks and validating them against analytical and experimental solutions as well as other CFD codes.
As for the research aspect, this one is a bit more exploratory. Here, the main task is to find new applications that can be accurately simulated on Preonlab and to find ways to balance precision and computation time.

As part of your master’s studies, you did an internship in South Korea - what was it like? And what did you do there?

I worked in a research department at INHA University in South Korea where I wrote my thesis on the topic of fuel cells. One part of my work there was to mechanically qualify the material used as a proton conductor inside Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells.
The other aspect dealt with using CFD simulations to optimize the flow pattern of bipolar plates in PEM fuel cells. It was a great experience because I have always been very interested in Asian culture and so when I learned about this program that was supported by my university in France, I knew right away that this is what I wanted to do.
Also, as there was active cooperation between both universities, it gave me the chance to get a double degree in both France and South Korea, which of course was a great advantage as well.

You then went to Aachen, Germany for your Ph.D. - what was it like in the beginning to now move to a new country? And how come you decided to do something on the topic of simulation?

Coming from Alsace, I learned German at school even before learning English, so language-wise, I was already somewhat prepared. However, I had never had to actively use the language regularly before, so it was challenging in the beginning, but once I practiced it every day, as time went on, it got easier.
As for the topic of my Ph.D. at RWTH Aachen University, computer simulations, I already did have some experience in that field, from my time in South Korea. However, there I mostly worked with solid simulations, like Abaqus. Also, during my master in France, we learned about the mathematical origin behind the various discretization methods and did some simple simulations on solid deformations, but the first real focus purely on simulations did come during my Ph.D.
I chose this field because I was fascinated by the idea of being able to replicate reality within the virtual environment of a computer.
In addition, the topic, simulations of oil-jet cooling for Internal Combustion Engines (ICE), resonated with my inclination for trying to understand complex mechanical systems.

After that, you joined FIFTY2 - how did you find out about the company?

When I started looking for a job, I had not a specific area in mind, but I was more leaning towards a rather smaller size/start-up company with an interesting product.
The way I then learned about FIFTY2 was somewhat random: I knew I wanted to stay in Germany to work, and proceeded to use Google Maps with the keyword „CFD“. This is when I saw that there was this company in Freiburg not far from my family in Alsace.
From FIFTY2’s website, I learned about PreonLab and the job posting that fitted my requirements of a company not too large with an interesting product. I didn’t spend more time looking around further, I applied for the position of application engineer and ended up being where I am now!

You’ve joined us in January 2021 during COVID times. What were the first few weeks and months like for you, given that most people were working from home and you could not see most of your colleagues in person?

When I started this position last year, I tried to go to the office quite often, where I already had the chance to meet some people in person, but of course not everyone. Nevertheless, a period of adaptation was needed, but I still felt like the workflows were working well and I was not hindered by the fact that most of us were and still are working from home.
I also really enjoy the fact that we have the flexibility to work either in the office or from home if we want to and knowing that either way, I will be able to do my work properly is reassuring.
Also, within my team, I did meet everyone in person, so that made it easy to adapt to my new role. Within the application engineering team, collaboration is paramount. We constantly help each other by sharing and challenging ideas.

Finally, why don't we finish by talking about something outside of work - what are some of the things you like to do when you're not looking for new applications or validating benchmarks?

Privately, I take pleasure in repairing and updating objects. From a young age, I always enjoyed taking apart broken things to see how they work. Now as an adult, I try to repair everything I can around me to give them a second life and keep them away from landfills. Usually, there is only a minor component to replace. It is very rewarding when I find out why something stopped working and find a way to fix it.
Besides, I also drive radio-controlled cars competitively where you have both the mechanical aspect of setting up the car for a specific track and the thrill of competing with other drivers.

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