Newswise — EL PASO, Texas (Feb. 6, 2022) – The University of Texas at El Paso has received a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to create a pipeline of scientists and engineers from underrepresented groups with advanced degrees in modeling and simulation (M&S).

The project is led by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from UTEP’s Advanced Modeling and Simulation Labs group.

“There is a critical shortage of up-and-coming talent in the M&S discipline, especially among the groups our project targets,” said Vinod Kumar, Ph.D., associate professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering in the UTEP College of Engineering. “Because of the socio-cultural realities of our region, the capabilities of our individual institutions, and our physical proximity to an advanced research facility such as Sandia National Laboratories, the members of the consortium are confident that we are uniquely well-positioned to take on this challenge.” 

M&S is a powerful method used in the design and evaluation of complex systems and processes and serves as a state-of-the-art research and development strategy for many applications, often to address some of the most intricate engineering challenges. It relies on the construction of abstractions of systems (models) and subsequent rigorous experimentation and assessment (simulation) using advanced computing and visualization tools.

M&S is widely used in the design and evaluation of systems and processes such as cooling in a nuclear reactor, materials for extreme environments, or ice sheet modeling of Greenland.

The work that will take place at UTEP is part of a larger project called the Rio Grande Consortium for Advanced Research on Exascale Simulation (Grande CARES), which is supported by a $5 million grant from the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) through its Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program. Grande CARES is comprised of faculty from four Hispanic-Serving Institutions including UTEP, New Mexico State University, the University of New Mexico and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; Prairie View A&M University, a Historically Black University; and Sandia National Laboratories, a prominent DOE research facility with world-renowned M&S capabilities.

The consortium will focus its efforts on recruiting and training scientists and engineers from underrepresented groups, primarily Hispanic students and students with disabilities.

The research team intends to address pressing M&S workforce development needs through immersive education, strategic curriculum development, targeted internships, and focused collaborative research projects with Sandia scientists. The curriculum development portion will also involve the creation of course content for non-computer science majors at member institutions. The goal of this effort is to expose a greater number of students to the concepts that are required for a career in the M&S field. 

“It is critical for national labs, such as Sandia, to partner with UTEP and the other consortium institutions, as these institutions will provide Sandia with a long-term and diverse talent recruitment pipeline,” said Irina Tezaur, Ph.D., a computational scientist at Sandia and the lab’s representative in the consortium. “Additionally, by working with students from the Grande CARES consortium, Sandia will be at the forefront of deploying the new methodologies developed under the consortium in mission-critical application areas of interest to Sandia, the Department of Energy, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.”

The project also includes a research component. Those efforts are divided into five thrusts: multiphysics simulations, agile computing, data-driven engineering, high-temperature reactivity, and thermal-fluid science. The goal is to develop computational tools for complex engineering challenges using high performance computational capabilities. 

Joining Kumar at UTEP are co-principal investigators Vivek Tandon, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering and computational science; Arturo Bronson, Ph.D., professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering; Natasha S. Sharma, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematical science and computational science; and Deepak K. Tosh, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science.

To learn more about the work of Grande CARES, visit

About the University of Texas at El Paso  

The University of Texas at El Paso is America’s leading Hispanic-serving university. Located at the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 84% of our 24,000 students are Hispanic, and half are the first in their families to go to college. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs at the only open-access, top-tier research university in America.