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2016 Moncrief Grand Challenge Awardees Announced

ICES' 2016 Moncrief Grand Challenge Awardees: Thomas Hughes, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics; Chandrajit Bajaj, professor of computer science; Mary Wheeler, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, and of petroleum and geosystems engineering; and Ofodike "DK" Ezekoye, professor of mechanical engineering.

Four faculty received ICES’ 2016 W. A. "Tex" Moncrief Grand Challenge Awards, based on their highly compelling research proposals related to the Grand Challenges in computational engineering and sciences that affect the competitiveness and international standing of the nation.

Chandrajit Bajaj, professor of computer science; Ofodike “DK” Ezekoye, professor of mechanical engineering; Thomas Hughes, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics; and Mary Wheeler, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, and of petroleum and geosystems engineering will receive stipends of up to $75,000 per award per semester to cover salary and other expenses necessary to further their research.

Bajaj’s work will address the three-dimensional (3D) imaging of the chemistry of disease. His team will experiment with eliminating the impractical, time-consuming use of dyes and stains to record 3D molecular content of cells and tissues. By developing this fundamentally new foundation for identifying pathology, he envisions the new method to eventually become a useful analysis tool for clinical decision making, especially for early detection of cancer.

Ezekoye seeks to develop a more rigorous method to assess the evidence in fire forensics reconstruction cases in the legal system. As a starting point, his research seeks to evaluate the quality requirements for both data and models used to characterize fire evolution in forensic analysis. This project will require developing improved data collection methods in fire scenes and translation of these data into large-scale computational fluid dynamics codes. The codes could then be run in an automated fashion over the broad space of scenarios to determine the most likely fire scenario.

Detection of vulnerable plaques, a common underlying cause of heart attacks, remains a huge unmet need, and is considered one of the “holy grails” of cardiology. Hughes’ group will develop a computational framework to create a 3D plaque model and run realistic blood flow simulations. This will enable a comprehensive study detailing the effect of 3D plaque shape on the most likely areas where commonly undetected vulnerable plaques occur. Eventually this could lead to a quicker and more accurate assessment of plaque vulnerability, which can better inform treatment options for patients.

Wheeler’s project will develop a simulation to identify the likelihood of sinkholes developing from injection of wastewater and carbon sequestration in the subsurface. Research has already established that the formation of sinkholes requires three conditions: (1) presence of a thick dissolvable rock formation (like salt caverns); (2) large, higher temperature, fluid flow rates of unsaturated fluid, and (3) conditions for mechanical destabilization and rock failure. Wheeler’s group will conduct computational studies of the microscopic degree to which each of these conditions must exist for the sinkhole to occur. This includes taking into account common rock and cavern environments, paired with the components of the wastewater or rate of carbon sequestration.


Posted: June 9, 2016