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We are excited to feature Colinda Francke, Senior Product Engineering Manager for the Cadence CFD team, in our Women in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) series for the month of July. Colinda has successfully managed her career in the academic field of computational fluid dynamics software and quality management, all while fulfilling her childhood dream of raising a family. In our interview, Colinda shares her career journey, her innovative use of nail polish to repair pressure probes, and her perspective on women in engineering.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born and raised in the Netherlands and aspired to become a homemaker in my younger years. My teachers and parents had a different vision for me. They believed in my potential to excel in my studies and enrolled me in a higher secondary school. As I enjoyed painting and drawing as a hobby, I took an entrance exam for an art school. I did not get admitted and realized that an artistic profession would not be a good fit for me and that I should rather continue to enjoy it as a means of relaxation. I reoriented my focus to prepare for a master’s degree in mathematics and physics. The possibilities of application of mathematical derivations in the field of applied physics fascinated me.
As fate would have it, I found myself on an unexpected path. While attending an open day at Delft University of Technology, I accidentally boarded a bus that took me to the Department of Aerospace Engineering. As I toured the department, I was captivated by the combination of science, mathematics, and hands-on application. From that moment on, I was determined to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. After completing my thesis on re-entry vehicle aerodynamics, I was fortunate enough to intern at the European Space Agency (ESA) in the Netherlands.
When and how were you exposed to the world of CFD?
While at university, I was introduced to the concept of CFD as part of my master's thesis and internship at ESA. I found joy in utilizing and contributing to an in-house code. Seeking to expand my practical knowledge beyond theory and coding, I pursued a research master's program at the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI). There, I worked on an extension of my master's thesis and spent much time in wind tunnel testing for very high Mach numbers such as Mach 11 and 14.
Colinda working on a test model and checking the pressure probes at VKI.
The tubes connected to the pressure probes may sustain minor damage when operating at high speeds. Although a transparent product could repair a small leak, this approach had two drawbacks. Firstly, previous repairs were not easily visible. Secondly, the leak could reoccur in the exact location. Drawing on my experience, I opted for a pragmatic engineering solution using red nail polish with high flexible consistency. This particular type of nail polish is less brittle and more flexible than others, making it more effective.
Such practical experience helped me understand that uncertainties are not just limited to CFD simulations. Even experimental measurements can only provide approximations and may not perfectly match real-world physics. It is crucial to understand these limitations, just as it is in CFD.
When did you start working with Cadence (NUMECA)?
In 2001, while pursuing my master’s degree at VKI, I interviewed with NUMECA (now Cadence). Although I had applied for a developer's position, I hinted that I would also be interested in a customer-focused role. I was offered a role in software testing, but after six months took the opportunity to be responsible for customer support and spent 12 good years in hotline support. I also provided consultancy, training at customer locations worldwide and served as an interim manager for NUMECA USA (Cadence). Working with customers on a wide variety of applications was very exciting. I would always learn new things from both the customers and our highly expert development teams, especially while trying to connect complex theory to real life through practical solutions.
Photo from a one-day hands-on CFD training session conducted by Colinda for students at a university.
In 2012, I took responsibility for the academic use of our CFD software. My duties involve consistent communication with university professors, researchers, and students to understand their requirements for the academic use of CFD software. Our team also sponsors student racing teams with licenses and mentoring, such as AeroDelft. I am thankful for the knowledge I have gained from others on creating top-notch simulations, and I am happy to share this knowledge with new students through classroom sessions and online CFD courses.
The same care and attention needed in research and setting up CFD simulations are required in all processes while developing CFD software, i.e., from the early phase of identifying customer requirements to post-sales support and collecting feedback. In the past eight years as a quality manager, ISO 9001 has served as guidance for high-quality service and customer satisfaction.
How do you spend your time when not working?
I have been practicing Aikido, a traditional martial arts training for both the body and mind, for over 20 years and have also taught children to practice this art. Unfortunately, I have had to take a break from practicing due to multiple injuries. I am focusing on recuperating through fitness and swimming and continuing my Zazen (seated meditation) meditation practice.
Flowers from Colinda's garden - Magnolia (right) (usually blooms during Colinda's birthday) and Cleamtis (left).
As a mother of two children, my schedule mostly revolves around their care and upbringing. I love seeing the world through their eyes and learning new things along the way. I enjoy being close to nature during my free time, especially experiencing fluid dynamics in the sea (laughs). Since I am an engineer, I like working on DIY renovation and repair projects in and around my home.
An extension to a rabbit house with corrugated roofing built by Colinda (right) and some roofing works carried out by her (left).
What are your thoughts on women in engineering?
During my final two years of secondary school, I was the only female student in my physics class. When I began my undergraduate studies in aerospace engineering in Delft, there were only three girls in a class of 300 students. Even now, when I visit STEM-oriented secondary schools, I often notice a lack of female representation in the classroom. To combat this disparity, I strive to inspire and encourage other women by sharing my experiences and enthusiasm for engineering work.
At the same time, diversity at schools, workplaces, and in society, in general, should focus diversity in all the aspects that make people unique and valuable in their own way. Diversity in upbringing, personality traits, communication style, problem analysis, and solving contributes to strong teams and long-lasting results.
A Few Pieces of Advice from Colinda
For more information on the academic use of Cadence Fidelity CFD for research and education: Cadence CFD University Program
Students can request access to CFD software for use on their personal computer through the contact form or explore licensing options: Cadence Academic Network: Contact us
To learn more about Cadence CFD solutions as they evolve, connect with Colinda on LinkedIn.