Successful career, flourishing family go hand in hand
Making decisions about career moves can sometimes be at odds with other considerations. But, for Rajeev Jaiman, major changes in life have been balanced between his scholarly interests and the needs of his family.
Currently, Jaiman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. How he got there from India and all of the stops along the way, including six years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is a story that demonstrates his dedication to both work and family.
Jaiman grew up in Rajasthan, a small village in the northwest part of India. “My parents a lower middle class,” he said. “I had to struggle for my education. I went to a lot of schools that were not really good. Exposure was limited. I had to find my own ways to study and learn things that were beyond a small village. I borrowed books and had to work hard to train myself going forward.”
His hard work paid off. He earned his Bachelor of Technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai.
“I always wanted to contribute in science engineering and to advance research so I applied to Illinois to study with Professor Eric Loth in the Department of Aerospace Engineering,” Jaiman said. “It was a big, big change for me. I had never been out of the country. I landed in Chicago on January, 22, 2001, in a very cold winter. I didn’t know anyone. I was all alone.”
Jaiman earned his master’s degree in 2002 and doctorate in 2007. Now married, he said, “My Ph.D. was on software coding and computational science and my wife was in bioinformatics, so we thought, let's go and try Silicon Valley.”
He took a job with a start-up company called Acusim Software, Inc. and in five years, the company acquired by Altair Engineering (a large mechanical software company) with Jaiman as the Director of Computational Fluid Dynamics. When the company was sold, Jaiman was offered an administrative position.
“I soon realized that, no, I don't want to be in a managerial position. I wanted to do more hands-on research work and contribute to the scientific community.”
Jaiman accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the National University of Singapore, partially because it is close to India and made it easier for him to help his extended family.
In Singapore, Jaiman developed a new idea to reduce vibration from ocean currents around giant offshore drilling platforms, primarily in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.
“Especially in the loop current, offshore platforms shed periodic eddies that can lock with the vibration frequency of the platform and they do a lot of dancing,” Jaiman said. “We came up with a design to minimize the motions caused by load forces from ocean waves and current that reduces motion up to 80 percent.
“It’s achieved by using a different shape for the column,” he said. “We’ve done extensive simulations to understand the physics details of what is happening in each column and then come up with complete designs that can be used in industry. The designs were tested in the Netherlands and they found some very good results in terms of minimizing motions in an actual facility offshore.”
For this work, Jaiman was awarded the Institute of Engineers Singapore prestigious engineering recognition for the development of a next-generation revolutionary offshore semi-submersible for deep water.
At this point, Jaiman and his family had been in Singapore for six years and it felt like the time was right to make another move.
“My daughter was nine years old and my son was seven. I got my education in North America, so I wanted them to grow up there, too,” he said.
Now, at his position on the faculty at UBC in Vancouver, Jaiman teaches a variety of subjects and does research in flow physics and fluid-structure interaction fundamentals in the computational multiphysics lab, then looks for ways to align solutions with problems found in aerospace and marine/offshore industry.
“If you go to British Columbia or the Pacific Northwest in Washington State, you’ll see a lot of ships are coming into port. The propellers create a lot of bubbles and noise that have an impact on the whales and other marine life. We understand the physics of what is happening—at the propeller, there is vortex shedding and eddies create noise.
“On the platforms, we are looking at vibration and noise; here we are looking for new ways to design ship propellers that will help minimize the noise. They have similar physics. Noise is a little bit high frequency and vibration goes higher. We want to minimize those effects coming through the flow.”
Jaiman said ship propellers vibrate at 20 to 200 Hz—the same frequency whales use to communicate. “Just imagine if you are talking and something else is creating that same frequency. You cannot talk or be heard. So whales fail to communicate and they're being disturbed severely by the shipping industry.”
He said this work is part of a multidisciplinary project with biologists and shipping companies. The team is hoping to have a resource for industry to use in two or three years.
In the meantime, Jaiman said Vancouver has been a good fit for him and for his family. “My wife and kids enjoy it. The outdoor activities are conducive to children. It’s a beautiful city and highly diverse culturally. My wife and I are able to maintain work-life balance.”
Jaiman has published over 130 peer-reviewed journal and conference proceedings and is an associate editor of the ASME Journal of Offshore Mechanics.