Chelikowsky and Ganesan Win Grand Challenge Awards

2013 Moncreif Grand Challenge Award Recipients pose for a pictureChemical engineering Professors Jim Chelikowsky and Venkat Ganesan have each received a Moncrief Grand Challenge Award to support their research addressing some of society’s biggest challenges in computational engineering and science.

The awards, funded by the private donations of oilman and philanthropist W. A. “Tex” Moncrief of Fort Worth and an anonymous donor, fund research recognized to boost the United States’ competitiveness and international standing.

Recipients receive resources to cover release time from teaching for one or more semesters to focus on their research at the university’s Institute for Computational and Engineering Sciences (ICES). Stipends of up to $75,000 per award per semester are also provided to cover salary and other expenses.

Jim Chelikowsky, an ICES core faculty member and professor of chemical engineering, chemistry, and physics, will use his award toward developing software that simulates images using atomic force microscopy (AFM). AFM views materials at the nano-scale, allowing users to “see” individual bonds between atoms. Possible applications for this work include designing and discovering materials for photovoltaics and electronic devices.

Venkat Ganesan, the Kenneth A. Kobe Professorship in Chemical Engineering, will use his award toward developing multiscale computational algorithms which can be used to predict the structure and properties of polymer electrolyte membranes used in batteries, fuel cells and water purification applications.

Chelikowsky and Ganesan join three other UT Austin faculty members receiving grand challenge awards this year.  Other recipients include:

Leszek Demkowicz, ICES core faculty member and professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, will use his award to further develop his Discontinuous Petrov-Galerkin Method and extend it to nonlinear problems with focus on compressible and incompressible fluid dynamics.

Chad Landis, associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, will use the award toward his work to improve predictions of crack morphologies in hydraulic fracturing of natural gas reservoirs.

Ali Yilmaz, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, will use the award to develop computational methods that will improve the design of high-field MRI systems for high-resolution mapping of the human brain.

Grand challenges are problems that must be addressed to achieve a sustainable, economically robust and politically stable future. These involve using computational methods to study such topics as cardiovascular engineering, water sustainability and weather. Other vitally important areas include carbon sequestration, drug design and delivery, advanced materials, rising seas modeling, national security, nano-science and engineering, and computational medicine and biomedicine.

The Moncrief Grand Challenge Awards Program has provided more than $1 million in funding for university faculty to pursue research in computational science and engineering.



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