Caleb Phillips and Nathan Rebello are co-recipients of the ICES 2017 Graham F. Carey Computational Science Scholarship.
Phillips is a senior in the computational engineering program at UT’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. He served an internship under ICES Professor Thomas Yankeelov, who nominated him for the award.
Phillips’ summer internship project focused on extending a computational model of avascular tumor growth to include angiogenesis. Working closely with ICES Research Scientist Dr. Ernesto Lima, he elected a hybrid approach so that the delivery of nutrients and key growth factors are described by a continuum model (i.e., PDEs), while an agent-based model captured the dynamics and phenotypic transition of both cancer and endothelial cells. In addition to building and coding the mathematical model, he met with experimentalists to help design and plan data retrieval for later use in calibrating and testing the initial model’s predictions.
To complete his summer project, Phillips had to develop skills at translating the key characteristics of angiogenesis into a set of rules for the agent-based model. To achieve this, he learned challenging software including libMesh, Latex, bash script, and the original code for the avascular model which resulted in more than doubling the initial 1230 lines of C++ code into 2360 lines.
“This was no small feat for a summer project,” said Yankeelov.
Beyond the summer project, Phillips has taken an active leadership role in UT’s undergraduate computational engineering degree by co-founding a student organization. In addition, he had many conversations with students and faculty to discuss how the program can be improved in its second academic year. He also worked with public relations and media personnel at the Cockrell School of Engineering to introduce to the concept of computational engineering to UT undergraduates.
“He is working to give back to the program that is clearly benefitting his career development,” said Yankeelov.
Rebello, a junior in chemical engineering, has been working closely with ICES Professor Venkat Ganesan who nominated him for the award. His first project involved helping model the experiments of Professor Grant Willson who patterns polymer films. In the initial stages of this project, a Ganesan’s graduate student developed a basic version of the program and asked Rebello to examine the results for parameters characteristic of the experiments. However, it became evident that the model was a little too simplistic for the experiments, said Ganesan, but Rebello agreed to modify the programs to better reflect the experimental conditions.
“Such a task is nontrivial, since Nathan had no prior programming experience (especially in Fortran 90, which was used in the program) to implement the changes,” said Ganesan.
However, Nathan learned the required topics and completed the modifications. Over the summer of 2016, Nathan effected many new parametric studies on this new program and finished writing a first-author paper.
“This was an especially remarkable achievement considering that he started working on this project only a short eight months prior to that,” said Ganesan. “Nathan’s work is a significant contribution to the field of semiconductor lithography. His results completely overturned conventional wisdom on the kinds of patterns optimal for such processes, and instead identified a new strategy (which will be tested soon in the lab) for achieving defect-free processes.”
Rebello presented his work at the American Physical Society meeting in the regular forum for talks as the only undergraduate student. He also won first place in the 2016 chemical engineering department’s undergraduate research poster award competing against more than 70 undergraduate researchers.
“Based on Nathan’s remarkable progress and achievement, I have since asked him to pursue a couple of other projects,” said Ganesan. “If my expectations fructify (and I have no reason to expect otherwise), Nathan would have published four peer-reviewed articles with substantial first-author worthy contributions. This is an exceptional achievement for any undergraduate student and would put him on par with the productivity of a Ph.D. student in the third or fourth year.”
The Graham F. Carey Computational Science Scholarship was created to acknowledge the important work of Professor Graham F. Carey in the computational sciences. The scholarship is awarded annually and honors the highly regarded Dr. Carey who was formerly a professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, director of the ICES Computational Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and holder of the Richard B. Curran Chair in Engineering.