For his technical paper and presentation, Simplified Modeling of Thermal Storage Tank for Distributed Energy Heat Recovery Applications, mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate, Aowabin Rahman won Best Paper from the ASME Advanced Energy Systems Division at the ASME 2015 Energy Sustainability Conference. Rahman’s co-authors are his advisor, mechanical engineering assistant professor Amanda Smith, and University of Texas-Tyler mechanical engineering assistant professor Nelson Fumo. (Poster: Modeling of Thermal Storage Tank for Heat Recovery Applications)

Growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Rahman says, “I’ve always had an inclination towards science, math and physics and wanted to apply my passion for science to real-life problems. The path I chose was to get a B.S. in mechanical engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. My career in engineering had always been encouraged and supported by family, friends and teachers, for which I’m thankful.”

Rahman came to the University of Utah in 2011 to pursue a master’s and now his Ph.D. “As I’ve progressed through graduate school here at the U, I’ve learned to increasingly appreciate the overlapping nature of scientific disciplines,” explains Rahman.

His master’s thesis was spent in mechanical engineering associate professor Kuan Chen’s Thermal Science Acoustics Laboratory to work on thermo-acoustics. There he conducted experiments on producing acoustic energy from pulsed solar radiation. Being fascinated by the novel idea of these energy systems spurred Rahman on towards his Ph.D.

“Deterministic/physics-based methods are often inaccurate in predicting building heating loads. Machine learning seemed like a good option to explore for my Ph.D. research,” adds Rahman.

Joining mechanical engineering assistant professor Amanda Smith’s Site-Specific Energy Systems Laboratory, Rahman is developing mathematical models of thermal storage for integration with distributed energy systems in buildings. They are now working on developing and applying machine learning algorithms for predicting heating loads (and subsequently emissions) in buildings. Both projects have an overarching objective of improving efficiency and reducing greenhouse emissions in buildings.

“Perhaps the most exciting aspect of conducting research is the opportunity to contribute my own ideas to the research field I’m interested in. While pursuing a Ph.D. has been the biggest challenge I’ve had to face so far, it’s been a rewarding endeavor. I feel motivated to pick up and apply new concepts to my research, while having the privilege to collaborate with and learn from my peers and professors,” refelcts Rahman.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah is committed to providing students with broad-based, rigorous and progressive education. By combining state-of-the-art facilities with renowned faculty, the department provides an education that gives students the necessary skills to become the next generation of innovators.