Math teacher receives competitive research grant

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Media contact: Jacob Longan | Communications and Marketing Coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences | 405-744-7497 | [email protected]

Oklahoma State University Assistant Professor Xu Zhang received one of Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ competitive research grants valued at $ 10,000 this summer.

Zhang, a Department of Mathematics professor specializing in numerical analysis, received the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award for his research proposal on the use of an unadjusted mesh to solve three-dimensional interface problems. The prize offers the recipients $ 5,000 and OSU will match the prize with an additional $ 5,000, making Zhang’s total prize worth $ 10,000.

“It is definitely a great honor for me,” said Zhang. “It is also an encouragement for me to continue in this field of research because I am a junior researcher in this community.

The Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award is presented to 35 scholars during the first two years of their tenure-track position at ORAU-affiliated universities. Each university can nominate only two junior faculty members, and ORAU has received over 150 nominations for the award.

Chris Francisco, who is on hiatus from his position as head of the mathematics department while acting as OSU’s acting vice-chancellor for undergraduate education, said he was happy that Zhang’s research was chosen for the grant. He added that Zhang’s research attests to the prestige of the department.

“I am delighted that Dr Zhang has won this prestigious and very competitive award,” Francisco said. “This says a lot about its research program and is a testament to the strength of our Applied Mathematics group, which has an international reputation for doing exceptional work that advances mathematics in important ways. Dr Zhang has been a wonderful addition to our service, and we are fortunate to have him.

Zhang, who is entering his third year at OSU, said the multidisciplinary award is usually only awarded to three or four mathematics researchers each year, and that he is honored that ORAU has chosen to support his research. with this grant.

Zhang’s research focuses on using numerical methods to solve interface problems, which arise when two materials meet, such as water and oil. These problems are difficult to solve, and Zhang said his research aimed to develop an efficient and accurate method to solve them.

“This proposal actually pushes the boundaries of this type of research,” said Zhang. “It deals with real-world three-dimensional interface problems, and we approach them in a non-traditional way, which uses ‘unadjusted mesh’.

“Unadjusted mesh means a mesh not adjusted to the body, that is, the computational mesh does not need to be aligned with the hardware interface. This contrasts with conventional numerical methods using “fitted mesh” or “body fitted mesh”, which require the mesh to be adapted to fit the interfaces. A satisfactory mesh fitting to the body may be difficult to generate for complicated interface shapes. Our new method is advantageous for dealing with these complicated interface shapes in three-dimensional simulations and for problems involving a moving interface.

Interface issues have several real-world applications, especially in engineering, and Zhang said he often works with aerospace engineers.

Francisco said he was impressed with Zhang’s research proposal and how he was able to communicate his ideas, even to people who are not experts in the field.

“Dr. Zhang wrote a truly exceptional proposition,” Francisco said. “He demonstrated how effective his computational methods are in solving mathematical problems with important applications, and he charted a clear path for improvement. and the generalization of this approach, in particular for the problems which frequently arise in engineering.

The competitive grant is intended to provide seed money for researchers, and Zhang said he plans to use his scholarship to attend regional and national conferences as well as to travel to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the Tennessee to work on his research. He said the award builds his confidence in his research and also encourages him to compete for other external grants in this area of ​​research.

He said he is grateful for the support he has received from the university and looks forward to continuing his research at OSU in the years to come.

“I am very grateful for the support of our department, our department head and the research team of the College of Arts and Sciences,” Zhang said. “They have helped me a lot, so I am very grateful to them.


Ellie Melero’s Story, College of Arts and Sciences Graduate assistant


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