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Fellows Directory

Frank Smith

Professor Frank Smith FRS


Elected: 1984


Frank Smith is an applied mathematician with an interest in modelling the flow of fluids. Frank is an expert on the boundary layer — the layer of liquid in the immediate vicinity of a surface — and his findings have revealed how fluids flow around objects or transition from one type of flow to another.

His research has applications in biomedicine and important implications for aviation safety. Tiny ice crystals in clouds sometimes attach to the layer of water on the surface of an aircraft rather than rebounding upon impact. This accumulated ice reduces lift and increases drag — with potentially catastrophic consequences. Frank is therefore investigating where this ice forms and how it can be removed.

In 2011, Frank wrote a quirky paper on the dynamics of stone skimming. He showed that when a stone hits the water’s surface, the force generated slows its downward motion and propels it out of the water. Recently, Frank extended his research to include the social sciences — helping describe human interactions by modelling rumour propagation and crime spread — and to bioprocessing.

Interests and expertise

Subject groups