Leadership and Members

Center Director

  • Paul DesJardin.
    Paul DesJardin, PhD
    PhD, Purdue University

    336 Jarvis Hall

    Phone: (716) 645-1467


    Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
    School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
    Center for Hybrid Rocket Exascale Simulation Technology (CHREST)
    Combustion and Energy Transport Laboratory (CET)

    Research Interests: Multiphase reacting flows; propulsion; fire and combustion; computational fluid dynamics; fluid- structure simulation

Co-Principal Investigators

Professors of Research

Director of Diversity

Software Framework Architect

Matthew McGurn

Matthew has focused his career upon the development of complex simulation frameworks and required interfaces to allow these powerful tools to be used by a wide variety of people. Holding his PhD in Mechanical Engineering (2013) from the University at Buffalo, he is well versed in the mathematics, physics, and software programming methods associated with CFD and FE based formulations. He is experienced in developing models using a wide variety of frameworks and languages including full web stack, modern software methods, and developing new computational methods/tools.


Senior Researchers

Georgios Georgialis

Georgios is a Data Scientist at Tufts University. As part of CHREST, he is primarily focusing on introducing uncertainty quantification to machine learning and building surrogate models for large scale simulations. Georgios earned his PhD from the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University. He has a Master's degree from Purdue University and an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA). His doctoral research included the development of a crowd-based prototype to predict future project failures using machine learning and human analytics, he also investigated whether targeted feedback helps in preventing such failures. He has previously worked with jet engines, rocket propulsion systems, and on an experiment that flew on Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket to space.

Research focus: AI methodology and fundamentals of rocket propulsion.


Razieh Zangeneh

Rozie’s research area is computational fluid dynamics focusing on turbulence modeling of high-speed flows. To understand the underlying physics of fluid flows, she develops and utilizes advanced numerical methods and data-driven models in engineering. Rozie earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 2018 from the University of Maine and, since then, has worked as a researcher and educator in higher education. She published numerous journal articles in Aerospace Engineering and taught courses in thermo-fluids areas.  



Kenneth Budzinski

Kenny is a 4th Year PhD student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department under the advisement of Dr. Paul DesJardin. Kenny received his masters in Aerospace Engineering at UB in 2019 and his Bachelors in Physics in 2017.

Research Focus: Extending current Boundary Layer combustion theory to couple in detailed radiation models that can simulate the burning regimes inside a hybrid rocket engine. Application of the developed model as a near-wall LES model which will be validated using small/large - scale experiments.


Albert Cowie

Albert is a 4th year Ph.D. student in the Computer Science and Engineering Department under the advisement of Dr. Matthew Knepley. In his prior education he received a B.A. from Canisius College in Economics with concentration in Finance and Minors in Applied Mathematics and Classics and received an M.D. from UB.

Research focus: High performance and scientific computing, specifically efficient scaling of numerical solutions to partial differential equations.


Venus Amiri

Venus is a 3rd year PhD student in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department under the advisement of Dr. Mark Swihart. Venus received a Master’s of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from UB in 2018. She holds a Bachelor’s of Engineering (Hons.) in Electronics majoring in Nanotechnology from Multimedia University. During her undergraduate studies, she worked on electrochemical properties of carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide. After joining UB, Venus began her research in the field of computational fluid dynamics with the main focus on numerical modeling of droplet-based microfluidics.

Research focus: Detailed chemical kinetic modeling of paraffin-oxygen combustion. Characterization of uncertainty in state-of-the-art soot models with generation of comprehensive reaction mechanisms for paraffin hydrocarbon waxes.


Darsh Nathawani

Darsh is a 3rd year PhD student in Computational and Data Enabled Science and Engineering under the advisement of Dr. Matthew Knepley. Darsh received a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Gujarat Technological University, India in 2017 and received a Master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from UB in 2019. During his Master’s thesis, Darsh conducted a research in the design exploration of solar updraft towers.

Research focus: Develop scalable simulations of the low Mach flow using PETSc. Mathematical modeling and simulations of the droplet formation under various external forcing, like gravity, shear force, etc.


Mae Sementilli

Mae is a 3rd year PhD student and a native of Western New York, currently pursuing her Doctorate in mechanical engineering with a concentration in computational and applied mechanics under advisor Dr. James Chen. Mae earned a Master's of Science degree in aerospace engineering at UB in 2019, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with Bachelor's of Science degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering from UB in 2017.  During her undergraduate studies, Mae conducted research in bio-inspired fluid mechanics and now focuses on the interfacial instability and droplet formation.

Research focus: Develop simulations of all thermal, mechanical, and dynamic aspects of the hybrid rocket engine fuel burn. Model small-scale experiments in collaboration with the experimental team.


Dwyer Deighan

Dwyer is a 2nd year PhD student in the CDSE/CSE PhD program with a Master's in Data Science. Dwyer has been programming independently since he was 15. His interests and personal projects have been very broad ranging from computer graphics/OCR, cyber security, networking, and AI. When he entered college he decided to specialize in AI and Data Science, while also deepening his understanding of advanced mathematics. He has since worked as a data science intern at Brown University and on a physics/AI project funded jointly by NASA and MIT as an undergraduate. Now he has graduated with Suma Cum Laude honors for his Master's and has recently wrote another publication which is under review.


Amol Salunkhe.
Amol Salunkhe

Amol is currently pursuing his PhD in Computer Science/Computational Data Science Engineering. Amol holds a Master's in Operations Research from the University at Buffalo and has 18 years of work experience as a computer scientist/data scientist. His primary advisors are Dr. Varun Chandola and Dr. Paul Desjardin.

Research focus: Develop reduced order models using Physics Inspired Manifold Learning and Deep Generative Models  for reduced order modeling.


Elektra Ismael

Elektra Ismael is a first year PhD student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Department. She received her B.S. in Chemistry from UC Santa Barbara and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from SUNY Buffalo. She is a Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholar and will be working on the experimental design and evaluation of liquefying/gelling fuels for hybrid and ramjet motor applications.

Research Focus: Design a high flow slab burner for evaluating fuels, validate simulations using combustion experiments and gathering thermodynamics data for specific materials, design novel gel binders.



Kolos Retfalvi

Kolos is a 2nd year Master's student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.  As an undergraduate junior and senior, Kolos has been one of the leaders for UB’s AIAA student chapter and one of the team leaders for AIAA’s Design Build Fly competition.

Research focus: Develop a particle tracking mechanism to describe the motion of the wax particle after atomization. Develop an instability model for thin liquid layers for different blowing rates and high Reynolds numbers for paraffin wax. Develop atomization experiments for liquid paraffin wax to validate the instability model with field measurements.


Nicholas Mcnally

Nick is a first year masters student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department. He holds a bachelor's double major in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. He was the chief engineer for the UBSEDS rocketry team as an undergraduate, which competes in IREC at the Spaceport America Cup.

Research focus: Design and manufacturing of bench scale and full scale hybrid motors for simulation validation. Designing test rigs for retaining motors and data collection.


Will Sheehan

Will is a first year masters student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. He received his Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from UB in 2022. Will has spent three semesters as a Systems Engineering intern in the Failure Investigation and Prevention group at Moog Space and defense.

Research Focus: Development of Peregrine hybrid rocket motor simulation. Design and construct hybrid rocket testing facility to conduct experiments and validate ABLATE model.



Owen Myotte

Owen is a senior undergraduate student of Mechanical and Robotics Engineering under the advisement of Dr. Paul DesJardin. Owen's expected graduation is in May 2023. Interests include energetic flow simulation, propulsion, and power production.

Research focus: Building launch control and data acquisition systems to perform analysis on hybrid rocket flights for model validation.


Salam Lobad

Salam is a senior undergraduate student pursuing a double major in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He is currently taking a gap year during his undergraduate studies whilst completing an internship at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Salam's expected graduation is in May 2024.

Research Focus: Development of simulation models for Hybrid Rockets. Development of analytic tools and metrics for simulated rocket performance.


Jeremy Dening

Jeremy is a senior undergraduate student majoring in Aerospace Engineering. He is a current member of the POLAR Nanosatellite project at UB, working on the Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) team.

Research focus: Updating outdated simulations of a peregrine wax slab burner to account for more accurate combustion chemistry. Developing classes in c++ to extract turbulent flow statistics, including favre average and rms, from simulations. Studying the relationship between factors such as the oxygen concentration of oxidizer, as well as the shape and presence of turbulent flow generators, on the blowoff limit of a peregrine wax slab burner. Performing validation of the temperature and regression rate from slab burner simulations using experimental data.



William Cafarelli

Billy is a senior undergraduate student pursuing a double major in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. 

Research Focus: Explore the effects of additives on fuel grain performance of paraffin wax in Hybrid rocket propulsion. Develop a system for tensile and compression testing of paraffin wax. Design and manufacture fuel grains using centrifugal casting. Study and apply Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (TIG) manufacturing methods to hybrid rocket manufacturing.


Nathan Rishe

Nathan is a senior undergraduate student pursing a degree in Aerospace Engineering. Nathan plans to continue his education through University at Buffalo as a graduate student in the Mechanical and Aerospace engineering department.

Research Focus: Develop a system utilizing centrifugal casting methods to design and manufacture fuel grains.