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K-State Today

February 9, 2017

Chen one of 58 awardees of U.S. Department of Defense Young Investigator Research Program

By Mary Rankin

In an effort to answer a century-old question in classical physics — is it possible to create a theoretical model that will describe the statistics of a turbulent flow — a Kansas State University engineering professor has been awarded $360,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Research Program.

James Chen, assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, will take on the challenge in his project, "A Multiscale Morphing Continuum Analysis on Energy Cascade of Compressible Turbulence."

The newly discovered energy transfer phenomena incompressible turbulence also will advance development of safety in high-altitude operations, stable pointing of onboard laser weapons in the national defense system, and a NASA initiative on creating the quiet supersonic passenger jet.

Chen's research will establish non-equilibrium eddy mechanics with the multiscale morphing continuum theory through the lens of statistical kinetic theory, as well as investigate multiscale energy-transfer phenomena by analyzing the kinetic energy spectra under the influence of shock waves and compressibility.

"This project is aligned with a nationwide research emphasis in high-performance computing," Chen said. "I am fortunate to be at Kansas State University where I'll have access to the largest, openly accessible high-performance computing facility in Kansas, Beocat, housed in the College of Engineering computer science department."

Chen received his doctorate from the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at George Washington University, his master's degree from the Institute of Applied Mechanics at National Taiwan University and bachelor's degree from the department of mechanical engineering at National Chung-Hsing University.

Prior to starting his doctoral studies, he was a research assistant in the Institute of Physics at Academia Sinica in Taiwan. He began his academic career at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and Pennsylvania State University, the Altoona College, joining the K-State faculty in 2015 as an assistant professor in the department of mechanical and nuclear engineering. He is director of the Multiscale Computational Physics Lab in the College of Engineering.

Chen is an honorary fellow of the Australian Institute of High Energetic Materials; and a member of Pi Tau Sigma, the International Mechanical Engineering Honor Society; American Society of Mechanical Engineers; American Physical Society; and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has published and co-authored more than 30 journal articles and contributed to more than 20 technical reports/presentations.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research announced in fall 2016 the awarding of approximately $20.8 million in grants to 58 scientists and engineers from 41 research institutions and small businesses, who had submitted winning research proposals through the Air Force's Young Investigator Research Program. The program is open to these scientists and engineers across the United States who have received doctorate or equivalent degrees in the last five years, and who show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research.

The objective of the program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering.