Katepalli Sreenivasan

Principal Investigator Affiliation: NYU New York

Research Areas: Primary expertise: Fluid mechanics and turbulence. Other interests: complex fluids, nonlinear dynamics, nonequilibrium phenomena and cryogenic helium. Emerging interests: mathematical modeling of global change and biomechanical phenomena.

Dr. Sreenivasan’s research expertise is (mostly) fluid dynamics, in particular turbulent flows. It is well known that turbulence is one of the most difficult problems in fluid dynamics, perhaps the most difficult. All turbulent flows share some commonalities (such as extensive spreading and efficient mixing), but each flow is somewhat different from the other; for example, a jet exhaust of an airplane spreads differently from the boundary layer on a gas turbine blade. The central task is to assign which properties are ‘universal’ and which are specific to a given flow. Since there is an infinite variety of turbulent flows, the working strategy for solving the ‘problem of turbulence’ is to accurately quantify the universal properties and, in conjunction, compute the specific properties. The conventional wisdom is that large-scale properties are specific to a flow and the small scale properties, such as the energy dissipation, are universal. A straightforward application of this appealing principle, assuming that one can uniquely separate large and small scales, is that it does not quite work. Dr. Sreenivasan’s work and that of his students and research collaborators has sharpened the question and answered many of its facets. Another area of expertise relevant to space is the convection in celestial bodies, particularly the Sun. Dr. Sreenivasan and his collaborators hold the record for the highest Rayleigh number experiments and simulations.

Dr. Sreenivasan considers himself primarily a researcher but have held several administrative responsibilities. He was the chairman of the Yale Mechanical Engineering Department and the acting Dean. Later, he took on the position of the Director of the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, because of its heavy engagement in science and technology in developing countries. When he returned after seven years to the US, he was appointed Senior Vice Provost (later Executive Vice Provost) at New York University (in addition to my professorial positions) and was entrusted with the responsibility of establishing research centers in the Abu Dhabi Campus of NYU. Two years into this service role, as President of the Polytechnic, he was instrumental in bringing about the merger of the former Brooklyn Poly with NYU and, as Dean, building NYU’s School of Engineering.

Dr. Sreenivasan is committed to the cause of the international freedom of scientists and have served as a member of the Human Rights Committee of the National Academies. He is currently the chairman of the Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists of the American Physical Society.