FACULTY IN FOCUS
“At KAUST, we are leading and funding an international effort to develop the next generation CFD solvers."
Though Matteo Parsani has used supercomputers in Italy, France, Belgium, and even in the United States at NASA, he says that the speed for running simulations at KAUST “is like a dream.” Currently, an associate professor of Applied Mathematics and Computational Science in the Computer, Electrical, and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering Division, Parsani is also affiliated with its Mechanical Engineering Program that is part of the PSE division.
Parsani’s journey at the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) began when he was a postdoctoral fellow there in 2012. Three years later, while pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship at NASA in the United States, he received an offer to return to the university as a professor.
Parsani received his master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Politecnico di Milano in 2006 and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Vrije Universiteit in Brussels in 2010. And yet, being familiar with the academic environment and opportunities he had had at KAUST, he had no second thoughts about returning. “KAUST is the gold standard of scientific research,” says professor Parsani.
As proof, Parsani points to a project undertaken in partnership with McLaren Formula 1. With the goal being to reduce the drag force that pulls against cars while generating the optimal downforce—bettering their chances of winning in a race—together, the team has succeeded in developing mathematical and high-performance computing tools that can simulate aerodynamics. “At KAUST, we are leading and funding an international effort to develop the next generation CFD solvers,” said Parsani. “Our research activities are motivated in part by close collaboration with NASA, the National Institute of Aerospace, Boeing, Airbus, Siemens, and McLaren, but our technology translation plans are broader.”
Parsani cites having top-notch equipment and facilities, such as the Shaheen 2 supercomputer at KAUST, as the secret ingredient to such productive and successful collaborations. “It's an unbelievable facility. I cannot think of a better place for scientists to thrive and work to solve some of the most pressing challenges of our times.”
Though Parsani was born and raised in Italy, he feels at home in Saudi Arabia, and in particular at KAUST. He finds the services KAUST provides families to be positively first-class. In his opinion, KAUST is a fantastic community where kids can grow up in a safe, loving, and healthy environment alongside other children and families. Children are able to attend a good school, and enjoy the park and beach, while he gets to spend much of his time working and researching on campus.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Parsani often traveled, whether for vacation or work. He would visit places in Saudi Arabia like Riyadh and the Taif area and places abroad such as the United Arab Emirates, Europe, and the United States. Locally, he prefers going to Jeddah because of its warm, friendly, and welcoming people. He also enjoys the diversity and openness of Jeddah’s population. In Jeddah, he feels truly at home.
Parsani is often struck by how Islam beautifully shapes culture and behavior in Saudi Arabia. He encourages people to visit the Kingdom to discover its development and the welcoming and warm nature of its people. Parsani admires the implementation of the Vision 2030, and his message to Saudi Arabians is that as wonderful as it is that Saudi Arabia is opening up to tourism, they should never lose the unique and beautiful aspects of their culture.
At the beginning of 2021, Parsani and his team's effort culminated in the deployment of the first prototype ever of scalable entropy stable solver for unstructured grids and complex geometries, one of the NASA 2030 milestones set to be delivered around 2027-2028." It is a very prestigious accomplishment for our institution to be visible among top-tier universities. It also helps the industries to solve hitherto intractable problems," said Parsani. With the research carried out at KAUST, Saudi Arabia is in the vanguard of fundamental upstream contributions to computational fluid dynamics software infrastructure. As part of the Kingdom's plans to diversify its economy, it wants to use the know-how to produce indigenously developed aircraft in the mid-2030s. Further following the 2030 Vision, Saudi Arabia plans to localize aerospace and defense industries.
Even with KAUST’s world-class facilities, Parsani believes that students and researchers must be very committed and still expend substantial effort to reach their goals. He often says, “KAUST provides the resources to get you 50 percent closer to your goal before you even start. But to fulfill the remaining half, you need to work hard, be smart, build a strong team around you, and have a vision.”