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Tejas Dethe

Department: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Faculty Adviser: Andrej Košmrlj and Howard Stone
Year of Study: G3
Undergraduate School: University of California, Irvine
Undergraduate Major: Physics and Pure Mathematics

Personal Bio

Hi y'all! I am currently a third-year graduate student in Mechanical Engineering. That being said, I consider myself to be a bit of an odd ball in the department in terms of my past experience since my undergrad training was in physics and pure mathematics.

During my undergrad, I was absolutely clueless with respect to research and certainly did not think about what it meant to have a long-term research goal. To figure that out, I ended up doing independent research in a whole flurry of labs in such fields as computational particle physics, medical physics and experimental condensed matter physics before settling down in a low temperature physics lab that, unlike most other labs in my undergrad physics department, was interested in fluid dynamics as applied to superfluid helium. How I ended up in the company of mechanical engineers is a story for another time! More importantly, though, what I learned from my experiences was my personal approach to research which was to see something interesting around me and then set out to find an explanation for why nature decided to do things in that interesting way.

Taking a detour from my research persona, I am a really curious person. Sometimes that has been interpreted as being nosy, but I'll let you be the judge of that :). Some other (random) things to know about me: I am from Navi Mumbai, India, I love to cook, know and talk about, and explore food (ask me sometime about my extreme food experiences!), I have elementary proficiency in Japanese and just started learning Russian this semester! There’s a lot more to go into, but let’s leave that conversation for another time.

Fun Fact

I really like billiards! It’s a fascinating activity not just for socialising but it is an interesting avenue to analyse the effect of sensitivity of play on reaching a desired outcome, where ideas of chaos (referring to the dynamical systems understanding of the term) become helpful.

Research Pitch

I would situate my research at the cross-roads of material science and fluid dynamics and the field I work in is usually called soft condensed matter physics, well, because the systems I work on tend to be soft and squishy (aka elastic) in some sense. My work is mostly theoretical, with an occasional sprinkling of computers that I employ as fancy calculators.

One of my projects tries to understand the relationship between symmetry and dynamics in soft material crystals. Every time you have seen squares or looked in the mirror, you have had some experience with symmetry whether you find it obvious or not. I generalize that intuition about symmetry using mathematical tools like representation theory and apply it to crystals which are made of soft materials, so that I can change the properties of the crystal as I squish it. As it turns out, many properties of these squishy crystals are related to the symmetry of the crystal. I am involved in developing a framework to predict the change in properties of the crystal as some symmetry is broken. One of the issues I want to explore for this system is a methodology for coming up with possible crystal geometries that satisfy a set of material and symmetry properties. But we can leave the details to a later time!

Plans for Summer 2022

Not available to participate in Summer ReMatch+ program.

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