Photo courtesy the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Dr. Subith Vasu addresses his class. Photo courtesy the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The ASME International Gas Turbine Institute has selected Dr. Subith Vasu as the 2017 Dilip R. Ballal Early Career Engineer Award winner. The Early Career Award honors an individual’s outstanding accomplishments during the first seven years of his career.

The award will be formally presented at the ASME Turbo Expo Keynote and Awards Program in Charlotte, North Carolina in June 2017. The award consists of a plaque, complimentary ASME membership registration for five years, and a $2,000 honorarium.

Dr. Subith Vasu, an Assistant Professor for University of Central Florida’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2010. He joined UCF MAE in 2012, encouraged by the work of Dr. Jayanta Kapat and UCF’s world-renowned Center for Advanced Turbine and Energy Research (CATER).

I’m excited about everything! You know, like Einstein once said, ‘never lose a holy curiosity.’

Dr. Vasu strives to improve and protect lives by tackling new challenges. His unique research will help shape the way we generate power and keep us safe from toxic chemicals. “You get excited by doing something that nobody has done before. Always finding new things,” Dr. Vasu explained. “I’m excited about everything! You know, like Einstein once said, ‘never lose a holy curiosity.’”

In 2015, UCF was one of only two universities in the U.S. to receive a federal grant from the Department of Energy’s University Turbine System Research Program to investigate how power plants might be able to generate energy from CO2 instead of steam. “There are revolutions happening in almost all the technology fields. If you look at power generation, we are working on supercritical CO2. That’s going to be a revolution!” Dr. Vasu is using the $1.1 million grant to develop a combustion computer model that will help understand the processes that occur during the critical burning stage.

Earlier this year, he received a $330,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to advance the understanding of how to eliminate toxic chemical weapons. Dr. Vasu was the subject of a 2016 documentary, Combustion Man, produced by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Photo courtesy OPCW

UCF President Dr. Hitt presents Dr. Vasu with the UCF Reach for the Stars Award. Photo courtesy OPCW.

While his research has received the most attention, Dr. Vasu is quick to point out that teaching is an important part of his job. As an adviser, it can be tempting to interject when a student is struggling, but Dr. Vasu understands the value in allowing students to work through the problem. “I have to be careful, because I don’t want to tell the students to go down a certain path because then I’m not using their creative mind. I want them to come up with new ideas. You want the student to say, ‘Why are we doing it this way? There’s a better alternative. A faster or more efficient way.’ There is a balance there.”

After you go to the moon, you don’t disband NASA. There are a lot of things that are still unknown.

When asked what the future holds, Dr. Vasu confessed that his work may never be done. “A problem is never finished. It’s always evolving with how the world develops. After you go to the moon, you don’t disband NASA. There are a lot of things that are still unknown. You always have a need for improvement.”

ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) is a not-for-profit membership organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing, career enrichment, and skills development across all engineering disciplines, toward a goal of helping the global engineering community develop solutions to benefit lives and livelihoods. The International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI) is a technical institute of ASME.