University of Texas at Austin


Chasing the Blackbird - Profile Ankit Chakraborty

By Rebecca Riley

Published Sept. 12, 2023

Ankit Chakraborty

A boy, about five or six years old, sits spellbound in front of a television set in 1999. On the screen, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird takes flight, its titanium wings slicing through the air. For Ankit Chakraborty, an O'Donnell Postdoctoral Fellow at the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, it was an unforgettable moment. 

"It was one of the coolest things I ever saw...the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft ever made," he said earnestly. This encounter left an indelible mark on young Ankit, so much so that he adorned his bedroom wall with a poster of the Blackbird — his dream machine. Today, Ankit works towards developing numerical discretization schemes to solve complex physical systems. 

Ankit joined the Oden Institute in September of 2022 as a Peter O'Donnell, Jr. Postdoctoral Fellow in Leszek Demkowicz’s Electromagnetics and Acoustics Group. He primarily focuses on developing adaptive numerical discretizations such as adaptive finite element and volume methods. 

Currently, Ankit is collaborating with Professor Demkowicz on creating flexible and efficient computational methods, such as scalable anisotropic $hp-$ adaptive finite element methods, for solving complex problems with varying complexities in different directions. He is also working with Demkowicz to develop efficient space-time finite element discretizations for electromagnetic wave propagation.

Ankit's current focus, the Discontinuous Petrov-Galerkin method with optimal test-functions, possesses inherent stability and includes a built-in error estimator, making it an ideal candidate for hp-adaptivity. His passion for aerodynamics and technology shines through as he discusses his work.

Ankit's interests extend far beyond the boundaries of academia, if not beyond his need for speed. He finds relaxation and excitement in the realm of whistle-stop adventure, particularly through his love for fencing and go-karting. 

Drawing parallels between the swift decisions he has to make with a saber in hand, and the strategic maneuvers on the racetrack, Ankit sees both his pastimes as “very fast-paced games of chess which push your reflexes and decision making to the limit.” He adds, “Plus, in fencing, you get to compete and meet interesting people during competitions.” 

Whenever he can make time to get away, Ankit immerses himself in nature and his love for travel. He notes, with a hint of excitement, his aspiration to witness the stunning transition from summer to fall in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Patagonia in South America. As he envisions his future, Ankit sees himself continuing his research journey, potentially joining an institution like DOE National Labs or the Max Planck Institute. For Ankit, research is a source of fun and mental fuel. 

"It keeps my mind running. That's for sure!" he says with conviction.

No matter where life takes him, Ankit's enthusiasm for his work will always reflect the awe and wonder he felt as a young boy, gazing at the Blackbird soaring across the television screen.