Ganesh Balasubramanian is looking forward to immense opportunities in teaching and nanotechnology research as he begins his new faculty position in the mechanical engineering department (ME) at Iowa State.
Initially planning on pursuing a statistics degree, Balasubramanian eventually elected to study mechanical engineering at Jadavpur University due to the wide range of scientific fundamentals and technological applications it provided.
His pursuit of an advanced degree brought him from India to the U.S., where he began working towards his PhD in engineering mechanics at Virginia Tech. Serving as a teaching assistant for several engineering science and mechanics courses also heightened his awareness of the benefits a career in academia provides.
“Working in higher education offers freedom to pursue one’s interests,” he says. “Just like athletes earn their livelihood by playing sports they excel in, academics build their careers by teaching and researching. In both cases, unless you enjoy the work, you can never succeed”
Balasubramanian also spent considerable time on research as a PhD student. His first project, funded by the National Science Foundation, concentrated on developing and implementing a nanotechnology curriculum for engineering freshmen using a novel spiral curriculum model that allows room for students to revisit difficult concepts to gain a better understanding.
At the same time, he was also working in Virginia Tech’s Multiphysics Research Group on projects involving molecular simulations of nanoscale transport phenomena. Balasubramanian’s research within this group focused on several fundamental scientific problems, including designing energy storage systems, understanding the physics of thermoelectrics in nanoscale, investigating mechanical properties of elastomeric proteins, and understanding the effects of interfacial thermal resistance in heat transfer across dissimilar materials.
“My research has been very interdisciplinary, as the projects I have been involved with incorporated fundamental aspects of ME, chemical engineering, physics, mathematics, chemistry, and computer science,” Balasubramanian explains. “I was, and still am, fascinated by how different disciplines are interlinked when investigating concepts related to energy and nanomaterials.”
Balasubramanian traveled to Germany after completing his doctorate in 2011, working as a postdoctoral scientific assistant at the Technische Universität Darmstadt.
This fall, he started at Iowa State as an assistant professor. His immediate focus will be establishing a research program centered on the influence of separate dimensions on mechanical properties of materials, and how to employ them for energy related applications that range from nano to macro scales. Understanding the materials’ behavior at the nanoscale will allow researchers to design new materials for targeted applications, improve properties of existing devices, and control different behaviors by manipulating systems at the molecular level.
“Research in nanotechnology has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and with it, questions have emerged about applying that research for the utilization of humankind,” Balasubramanian says. “Blending the ideas, motivation, skills, capabilities, support, and backing of a variety of researchers will be key to developing undiscovered scientific principles and creating cutting-edge technology.”
In addition, he will be teaching Heat Transfer (M E 436) during the spring semester. He is looking forward to integrating mentoring into his teaching techniques to successfully educate his students.
“Knowledge is a gift, and it is our responsibility as instructors to share that with the students by being honest, committed, and diligent,” Balasubramanian says. “We also have to be constantly receptive to necessary alterations in the process to make learning positive and effective.”