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Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Bhargav Rallabandi Awarded 2020-2021 Hellman Fellowship

Fellowship to support research on dynamics of sea ice to better understand polar climate environments

Bhargav Rallabandi, mechanical engineering assistant professor at the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering (BCOE), was awarded the 2020-2021 Hellman Fellowship for his research “Multiscale modeling of sea-ice: linking ice floe dynamics to climate.” Rallabandi received the maximum fellowship support amount of $30,000.

The fellowship will support research conducted at the FlowLab, where principal investigator Rallabandi is pursuing a novel, bottom-up approach to modeling sea ice transport, giving scientists a powerful tool for understanding the rapidly changing polar environment. 

Bhargav Rallabandi headshot
Bhargav Rallabandi

His research team includes Xirui Zhang, a mechanical engineering doctoral student, and Bryan Shaddy, a mechanical engineering undergraduate student. 

Rallabandi said it is currently unclear how some properties of sea ice – for example, the size, shape or thickness distribution of floes – relate to larger-scale parametrizations, or surface patterns, of the ice pack. To help make this connection, his approach will begin with the movement of individual ice floes, build to coarse-grained descriptions of the emergent properties of sea ice as a whole, and ultimately model the interactions between ice, ocean currents, landmasses, and winds.

This multiscale approach will bridge the gap between the transport of individual ice floes and the transport of the ice pack – ultimately helping scientists better understand the bigger picture dynamics of sea ice on geologically relevant length and time scales.

"Understanding the dynamics of sea ice is important to modeling the larger climate system and has economic impact as new trade routes open up," said Rallabandi. "The hope is that these approaches provide new insights into important global issues of climate and generate interest among the broader scientific and engineering communities."  

Ice dispersion

The UC Riverside Hellman Fellows Program was established by funds from the Hellman Fellows Fund. The program aims to support research and creative activities of promising faculty at the assistant professor rank who exhibit potential for great distinction in their area of expertise.