College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Bhattacharya seeks clean, low-cost energy solutions

Sourabh Bhattacharya, new assistant professor in mechanical engineering, says his interest in math and science was inspired by his father, who is an electrical engineer. Bhattacharya, however, opted for a career in academia for the atmosphere of creative and imaginative problem solving.

Sourabh BhattacharyaA native of Bombay, India, Bhattacharya attended the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay to receive his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering in 2002. By 2010, he had received a master of science in both applied mathematics and electrical engineering, and a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

During graduate school, he served as a research assistant at the Beckman Institute from 2002-2007, where he studied vision-based control and motion planning for autonomous vehicles. He later became a research assistant in the Coordinated Science Lab from 2008-2010, working on problems at the interface of game theory, communications, and motion planning for multi-agent systems.

Bhattacharya stayed at the Coordinated Science Lab as a post doctoral research associate, exploring optimal sensing strategies in the face of data deluge and security in cyber-physical systems.

Each time he works on something new, he says his appreciation for how engineering research works to solve problems relevant to society grows.

The impact of engineering was something he realized first-hand during his undergraduate program in India, when he worked on one of his most interesting projects. He and other students were asked to build an electric wheel chair that would run on solar energy.

“I remember that the most challenging part was to come up with ideas for storing enough power during the day so the chair could work at night,” Bhattacharya recalls.

In the future, Bhattacharya says he would like to apply engineering research to situations like the one demonstrated in the wheelchair project: cost effective and environmentally responsible.

“I’d like to investigate, understand, and solve problems related to clean and cheap power generation and distribution in economically challenged nations,” he says.

As he gets settled into his new position at Iowa State, though, he says his primary research will stay focused on where he has the most experience: optimal control and differential games with applications in robotics, mobile sensor networks, and unmanned vehicles.

“I am specifically interested in expanding my understanding of competitive interactions between rational agents, or agents that make their own decisions based on the available information, and their implications in motion planning strategies for autonomous vehicular networks,” Bhattacharya says.

He will also be teaching courses in control theory and engineering at both the undergraduate and graduate level.