Michael Baldea Wins Grand Challenge Award

Grand Challenge Award winners Tan Bui-Thanh, Thomas Hughes, Michael Baldea and Kui Ren at the The Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. Assistant Professor Michael Baldea has received a W. A. “Tex” Moncrief Grand Challenge Award for his research addressing some of society’s biggest challenges using computational engineering and science.

Baldea was one of four recipients this year alongside Tan Bui-Thanh, assistant professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics; Thomas J. R. Hughes, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics; and Kui Ren, assistant professor of mathematics.

The awards, funded by the private donations of oilman and philanthropist W. A. “Tex” Moncrief of Fort Worth and an anonymous donor, support research recognized to boost the United States’ competitiveness and international standing. Grand challenges are defined as problems that must be addressed to achieve a sustainable, economically robust and politically stable future.

Baldea’s research will focus on smart manufacturing. In particular, he will investigate a new visualization and analysis framework which relies on large-scale data collected from chemical and petrochemical plant operations to anticipate and minimize the occurrence of environmentally harmful flare events. The project aims to develop a strategy for detecting and mitigating plant disturbances and faults that can lead to flaring, thereby improving the sustainability of chemical and petrochemical processes.

Award 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. 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.

Prior to joining the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering in 2011, Baldea held industrial research positions with Praxair Technology Center in Tonawanda, NY and GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY. He has received several research and service awards, including the ACS Doctoral New Investigator award, the Model-Based Innovation Prize from Process Systems Enterprise and the Best Referee Award from the Journal of Process Control. His research interests include the dynamics, optimization and control of process and energy systems, areas in which he has co-authored one book, three book chapters and over 50 peer-reviewed journal and conference articles.

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