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Featured Researcher: Joe Molnar

Posted on July 27, 2021

Diagnostics are an important part in research into understanding propulsion and energy generation, however monitoring performance and gathering diagnostic information can be challenging because data is often minimal and collected in noisy environments. The research mission of Joe Molnar, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, is to develop tools and diagnostics equipment that can help scientists  gain more insight from data.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

My goal is to push the limits of data, developing methodologies that minimize the neces-sary data to recover high-fidelity information in the fields of fluid dynamics, combustion, and heat transfer.

How does supercomputing enable your research?

Supercomputing provides me the opportunity to conduct research on scales that otherwise would not be feasible. Ultimately, as a researcher with increased computing resources, I’m able to probe higher dimensional problems with more fidelity. Supercomputing is also ex-tremely useful for testing many hypotheses simultaneously, which thereby informs the thrusts in my research.

What’s the elevator pitch for your research?

Diagnostics are ubiquitous in propulsion and energy generation settings, however often-times data recorded is minimal and noisy. Therefore, there exists a major opportunity for data-assimilation and accuracy evaluation. A framework to do this should incorporate the governing physics, as well as operator intuition, in order to post-process raw data. Therein lies the rub of this research, developing novel tools and diagnostics which incorporate phys-ics and background knowledge to gain more insight from data.

What is the biggest surprise for you personally that has come out of your research journey?

One of the biggest surprises that has come out of my research so far has probably been the realization of the breadth of possibilities to pursue in this field. It is interesting to learn about what has been done and then move towards forwarding the field.

What types of interdisciplinary collaborations would you like to build in the future?

I am excited for collaborations across many fields, ranging from other engineering disci-plines, to the areas of chemistry and applied mathematics. I would like to connect with those with experience in machine learning, statistics, fluid dynamics, combustion, and ener-getics. Each of these areas hold unique prospects that align with the goals and outlook of my research.

What’s your favorite sound?

Probably the sound of a coffee maker that has just finished brewing, because that means I can finally fill my mug.

If you had unlimited money, what project would you take on?

With unlimited money, I think that I would take on the challenge of urban transit. Cur-rently, transit is severely unoptimized, with many people taking sub-optimal routes. If this could be optimized through technology and advanced transportation systems, mas-sive gains could be realized, in both economic and social terms.

What’s your advice for would-be scientists?

The best advice I would give is for engineers to actively hone their coding skills. It is becom-ing increasingly useful to be able to write a script which automates some part of your work-flow or provide you information regarding a process. Additionally, more data (of the same quality) is always better than less data, so if you are taking measurements, take the extra data-points; it may save you from headaches later if you have outliers.

Favorite hobbies/pastimes that have nothing to do with your professional work?

I enjoy motorsports and model-building, which go together rather well. Working on me-chanical systems has a similar feel to building a model. Also, there are few things quite as thrilling as canyon carving on a motorcycle on a beautiful day.

What’s in your Spotify (or other app) playlist?

I’ve definitely got a mix of styles in my Spotify; generally which one I pick corresponds to my mood and what I’m working on. Intense focus generally corresponds with an EDM or Jazz playlist (pretty synonymous right?), coursework usually gets an MGK/Yungblud mix, and re-search oftentimes is an Eric Church/ HARDY/ Morgan Wallen mood.


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