Stockar receives Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from NSF

Posted: May 21, 2021

Stephanie Stockar, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Professor Stockar’s award, titled “CAREER: Constrained Optimal Control of Partial Differential Equations for Improving Energy Utilization in Transportation and in the Built Environment,” focuses on creating a new mathematical framework to solve optimal control problems in systems described by Partial Differential Equations.

“These mathematical models are omnipresent in mechanical engineering, for example in energy storage systems, power distribution and conversion, and can even be used to predict traffic flows in transportation,” Stockar said.

Stockar’s research focuses on the application of optimization and optimal control theory to automotive and energy systems. This award will help her establish an emerging and interdisciplinary research program at Ohio State that will explore challenges related to energy optimization and control of transportation networks, district heating networks, and connected and autonomous vehicles.

The more conventional methods that are used by industry and academia for optimizing and controlling large scale systems tend to be based on simplifying assumptions. This can cause the process of compensating for model approximations to require more time, making them costlier.

Standard methods also have limits to their use in safety-critical applications. Stockar’s research will aim to remove limitations and advance the theory of constrained optimal control of Partial Differential Equations.

“I expect that this will reduce the time and costs related to design and implement controls,” Stockar said. “A positive outcome of this research will have a huge impact on improving the energy utilization and sustainability in the residential and transportation sectors.”

Through the CAREER program, Stockar will be creating an initiative for sophomore and junior students in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, to give them exposure and experience within a research lab.

As for the award itself, Stockar feels it comes not at the end of a road, but an intersection.

“Writing this particular proposal has been an exciting journey for me as it brings together different research areas that up until this point I was approaching separately,” Stockar said.

She noted that the NSF CAREER award is the most prestigious recognition for an assistant professor. The award not only supports junior faculty development, it recognizing the impact they can have on the next generation of engineers.

To underscore Stockar’s achievement, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Chair Jim Gregory shared his support of her work.

“We’re delighted by this recognition of Prof. Stockar’s excellence,” Gregory said. “The NSF CAREER award will be a great foundation for building her faculty career. The impact of Prof. Stockar’s work is very exciting – her scholarly excellence and innovative ideas will lead to reduced energy consumption for engineered systems. And, her creative approaches to enhancing undergraduate research experiences will have a tremendous impact on the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Stockar said the proposal for her award not only required her to put faith in her ideas, but to also consider her future as a faculty member.

“The idea that there might have been a common denominator between these things [research areas] came during my first semester at Ohio State and was one of those moments when you ask yourself, ‘Is this actually a good idea?’” Stockar said. “You just go for it, hoping for the best. Getting the proposal awarded, is just great. In addition, the CAREER proposal requires you to think carefully about where you would like to be 5 years after the award, so it’s a very introspective experience.

Dr. Stockar joined Ohio State in 2019. She returned to the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering from Penn State University and after formerly working as a research associate in the Center for Automotive Research (CAR). Stockar earned her BS and MS in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and her PhD in mechanical engineering from Ohio State.