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Research Interests

Understanding and predicting water motion in the environment is a never-ending challenge. Scientists and engineers use the mathematics of partial differential equations (a form of calculus) that are coded into sophisticated computer programs.  We use these models (or simulations) for everyday practical tasks, such as designing stormwater piping systems to limit flooding danger, or detecting leaks in water supply piping. These models are also applied to complex predictions of how our society and our choices impact the natural world, such as estimating the path of an oil spill to aid in clean-up operations or the fate of saltwater intrusion into a marshland when freshwater is withdrawn to support agriculture, industry, and drinking water.

I work at the intersection of computers and fluid mechanics across natural and man-made environments. This includes a number of research buzz-words:

  • Computational fluid dynamics (CFD),
  • Environmental fluid mechanics (EFM),
  • Urban storm water drainage modeling,
  • Flood modeling,
  • Water distribution modeling,
  • Hydraulics (Eco-hydraulics),
  • Geospatial analsysis,
  • Water quality transport and modeling*.

My students and I develop new computational algorithms that improve our ability to model complex physical processes of fluid flow and transport. A key motivation is the need to create practical and reliable modeling techniques that help engineers solve real-world problems. We work with a variety of computational models:

  • Frehd – Fine Resolution Environmental Hydrodynamics Model,
  • SPRNT – Simulation Program for River Networks
  • SWMM – EPA StormWater Management Model
  • EPANET – EPA Water Distribution Piping Model
  • SUNTANS – Stanford University Unstructured Nonhydrostatic Terrain-following Adaptive Navier-Stokes Simulator,
  • OpenFOAM – Open-source 3-dimensional CFD model.

Both SPRNT and Frehd were developed within my research group (the former in collaboration with IBM Research Austin).  SPRNT is available on GitHub under an open-source license.  Frehd is not yet available as an open source model, but I am making it available to collaborators (contact me if you are interested).  I was also the principal author of the Estuary and Lake Computational Model (ELCOM) that was distributed by the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia and is still widely used in Physical Limnology studies.

Projects include computational modeling of oil spills, salt-freshwater exchange in a coastal marshland, river modeling for regional-to-continental networks, high-speed parallel algorithms for stream/pipe network models, auto-calibration of runoff models with genetic algorithms, flow capture of long curb inlets along a roadway (laboratory experiments!), alleviating problems with supersaturated dissolved gas downstream of high dams. All projects typically involve developing new approaches or algorithms for computational modeling.

*A caveat on “water quality” – I’m interested in the computational modeling of transport and reaction equations, but I don’t do research on the water quality processes themselves!