Rice fluids researcher earns solid federal support

Computational and applied mathematician Jesse Chan wins NSF award for young faculty

By Patrick Kurp
Special to the Rice News

Jesse Chan, an assistant professor of computational and applied mathematics (CAAM) at Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering, has received a five-year, $449,907 National Science Foundation CAREER Award to develop new technologies for reliable simulations of fluid flow, which are central to scientific fields from environmental and aerospace engineering to solar physics.

Jesse Chan. (Credit: Mike Andrick/Rice University)

Jesse Chan. Photo by Mike Andrick

“Because they are simple and robust, classical methods from the 1950s and ’60s are still used to produce most computational fluid simulations,” Chan said. “In theory, newer numerical methods can produce higher-fidelity simulations at lower computational costs, but they tend to be less stable and more likely to crash. We would like to change this.”

Chan joined the Rice faculty in 2016. He earned a bachelor’s degree in CAAM from Rice in 2008, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in computational science, engineering and mathematics from the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin in 2013.

For two years Chan served as a Pfeiffer Postdoctoral Instructor in CAAM at Rice, and in 2015 went to work as a postdoctoral researcher in mathematics at Virginia Tech, where his mentor was former Rice faculty member Tim Warburton.

Currently, three graduate students take part in Chan’s NSF-funded projects and related research.

“Mathematically speaking, we develop numerical methods which reproduce such physical laws as the dissipation of energy,” he said. “However, our work involves both theoretical and practical considerations. Our goal is creating accurate, efficient and reliable simulations.”

As part of his CAREER grant, Chan will also work with the Rice Office of STEM Engagement to create summer research programs for local K-12 teachers and community college students. These six-week programs will promote discovery-based learning of concepts in computational science.

CAREER awards support the research and educational development of young scholars likely to become leaders in their fields. The grants, among the most competitive awarded by the NSF, go to fewer than 400 scholars each year across all disciplines.

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