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Meet a Participant: Dipak Dulal

Dipak Dulal

As a recent participant with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Mathematical Sciences Graduate Internship Program (MSGI), Dipak Dulal researched the relationship between thermocouple temperature and turbulent kinetic energy using real world data.

Applied mathematician helps improve fire management during summer internship

When pursuing a master’s degree in pure mathematics, the elegance and rigor of mathematical theories captivated Dipak Dulal. His deep fascination for mathematics and its ability to explain the world around us continued to grow until he discovered his true passion, applying mathematical theories to solve real-world problems. Now, Dulal is pursuing his doctoral degree in applied and computational mathematics.

“These fields sit at the intersection of mathematics, computer science and data science making them highly interdisciplinary and allowing for innovative problem-solving strategies that are both intellectually stimulating and impactful,” he said.

During his doctoral studies, Dulal came across an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) opportunity with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Mathematical Sciences Graduate Internship (MSGI) Research Participation Program. With his fascination for data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) as well as the opportunities for projects and collaborations provided through the program, he decided to apply.

“I believe the NSF MSGI program is a strategic step towards fulfilling my career aspirations,” Dulal said. “It provides me with research, development and professional growth opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the field of data-driven mathematics and machine learning.”

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Mathematical Sciences Graduate Internship (MSGI) Program provides research opportunities for mathematical sciences doctoral students; allowing them to participate in internships at national laboratories. NSF MSGI seeks to provide hands-on experience for the use of mathematics in a nonacademic setting.

During his time in the NSF MSGI program, Dulal took previously collected data and investigated the relationship between thermocouple temperature and turbulent kinetic energy (TKE). The data he used was from a controlled fire experiment in the Silas Little Experiment Forest, New Jersey. The study looked at whether high-frequency thermocouple temperature readings could accurately predict TKE, a critical factor in understanding fire dynamics. Through the usage of deep neural networks, random forest regressors, gradient boosting and Gaussian process regressors, Dulal was able to achieve his goal.

“This novel work has not only contributed to the scientific understanding of fire behavior but also holds practical implications for improving fire management strategies through data-driven insights,” he said.

Even after the completion of his program with NSF MSGI, Dulal continues to collaborate with Nicholas Skowronski, Ph.D.; Joseph J. Charney, Ph.D.; and Michael Gallagher, Ph.D.; to finalize a manuscript on temperature variations and TKE in wildland fires. Eventually, the group plans to submit their project to a scientific journal.

Dulal highly recommended the ORISE opportunity and felt that he gained many beneficial skillsets along the way. He also felt his mentorship allowed him to become exposed to diverse viewpoints and methodologies which expanded his approaches to research and teaching.

“The projects from ORISE offer various comprehensive experiences with hands-on research, professional development, real-world problem-solving skills and networking as well,” he said.

At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dulal is a graduate teaching assistant while also pursuing his doctoral degree which he expects to complete in 2024. He works under Carmeliza Navasca, Ph.D., researching multilinear algebra, tensor decomposition and machine learning and was awarded the James R. Ward Jr. Memorial Endowed Award for excellence in research in mathematical biology.

Through his impressive academic career and research, Dulal has successfully achieved his true passion by blending his love for mathematics with practical applications.

The NSF MSGI Program is funded by NSF and administered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for DOE by ORAU.