University of Texas at Austin


CSEM Student Shane McQuarrie Wins BGCE Student Paper Prize

By Joanne Foote

Published May 8, 2023

Shane McQuarrie, Ph.D student at the Oden Institute.

Shane McQuarrie was awarded the ninth BGCE Student Paper Prize for outstanding contributions of students in the field at this year’s SIAM Conference on Computational Science and Engineering. A Ph.D student at the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, McQuarrie was among seven finalists invited to present his paper at the in-person conference in Amsterdam held Feb. 26 - Mar. 3. The contest is administered by the ENB Elite Bavarian Graduate School of Computational Engineering (BGCE).

As a student in the Computational Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (CSEM) graduate program, McQuarrie said it was exciting to make it to the final round. “The other finalists presented really excellent work, so I feel very honored to have been chosen as the winner. Even more than winning, I really enjoyed getting to know the other finalists.” 

McQuarrie’s paper, “Operator inference for affine-parametric systems of partial differential equations,” develops a method for constructing reduced-order models for a large class of parametric systems using only data and the known structure of the system. 

“Parametric systems show up in a wide variety of important real-world applications, from biological systems to combustion to 3D printing. In our paper we look at a model for heat diffusing through a material, in which the parameters specify the thermal conductivity of the material. Ideally, we can use the same reduced-order model for rubber and metal by changing the system parameters. We also examine a model for neurons firing in the brain, where the parameters describe various aspects of the brain chemistry. The methodology we developed is quite general and applies to a large class of parametric systems, not just these examples,” he explained.


McQuarrie during his talk at the SIAM CSE Conference. Credit: Elite Network of Bavaria

“Shane is a quintessential CSEM student: He has a broad and deep knowledge of mathematics, he is not afraid to get his hands dirty with large-scale codes and data sets, and he collaborates effectively to engage with challenging applications in combustion and plasma physics,” said Karen Willcox, McQuarrie’s Ph.D advisor and director of the Oden Institute. “Shane recognizes that software is a part of his research product and he particularly stands out in the way he brings professionalism to the software aspects of his research.”

“The CSEM program at the Institute really appealed to me because of its highly interdisciplinary nature, from the class curriculum to dissertation expectations to the incredible variety of research that goes on here. I really appreciate the commitment to mathematics and the way that computational research is valued here. On top of that, Austin was a great place to be for our young and growing family,” said McQuarrie, who is a father of three. 

Shane is a quintessential CSEM student...he is not afraid to get his hands dirty with large-scale codes and data sets.

— Karen Willcox, Oden Institute Director

He also presented his work at the recent SIAM Southeastern Atlantic Section Annual Meeting held at Virginia Tech, and was recognized with a first place student award for the presentation.

McQuarrie earned a Bachelor of Science degree in applied and computational mathematics in 2016, and a Master of Science degree in mathematics in 2018, both from Brigham Young University. He holds a Master of Science degree in CSEM from the University of Texas at Austin and anticipates completing his Ph.D. in CSEM this summer. He is also a member of the Department of Energy Predictive Science Academic Alliance (PSAAP) Center that is developing predictive simulations of an inductively coupled plasma torch.

In pursuit of his next professional adventure, he will be moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he has accepted the prestigious John von Neumann Fellowship in Computational Science at Sandia National Laboratories. Clearly this Ph.D student is one to watch.