Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., was recently awarded a $5 million grant from NASA to develop the next generation of methane-based rocket engines. These said rocket engines will be used for in-space propulsion, ascent and descent engines for Mars and lunar landers. The advancement of the methane rocket engines is identified as a critically enabling technology in the NASA Space Technology Roadmap.
Choudhuri is a graduate of the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. He received degrees in mechanical engineering graduating in 1997 with his M.S. and 2000 with his Ph.D. working under mentorship of AME Professor S.R. Gollahalli, Ph.D. Choudhuri began working at The University of Texas at El Paso in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2001 where he is the chair and professor of the department and Mr. and Mrs. MacIntosh Murchison Chair II in Engineering. He is also the Director of the Center for Space Exploration Technology Research (cSETR).
“Among nearly 100 graduate students I have mentored, Ahsan certainly ranks very high,” said Gollahalli. “His motivation, focus, energy level and drive to succeed were unparalleled.”
With Choudhuri’s primary research efforts focused on propulsion technologies for next generation space missions and energy technologies for a low carbon future, Choudhuri has a broad range of federal and industry funded projects. Most of his research is conducted in the cSETR including the latest project funded by NASA for the development of methane-based rocket engines.
When Choudhuri first began working at UTEP, there was not a space engineering based program nor was there such research being conducted. Under his direction, the cSETR is now one of the top research groups in the nation focused on space exploration and technology. The cSETR has formed partnerships with organizations such as NASA Johnson Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center and Glenn Research Center, just to name a few.
“Over the last five years, UTEP rocket propulsion research infrastructure has grown exponentially,” Choudhuri said. “This grant attests to the national preeminence of cSETR’s research and education programs. There is already a significant interest to utilize this region for commercial space exploration purposes, and we are placing ourselves as the strategic lead for propulsion research capabilities in the area.”
Each year the cSETR focuses on training over 60 undergraduate and graduate students in space and energy engineering education and research. Following graduation, many of the students begin their careers at NASA Johnson Space Center or other cSETR partners.
As an alumni, Choudhuri says his time at AME played a role in his successful career.
“OU played a big part in my career thus far. If I didn’t have a chance to work under Dr. Gollahalli’s mentorship, none of this would have been possible,” Choudhuri said. “I received a high quality education at AME as well as high quality research training working in Dr. Gollahalli’s Combustion and Flame Dynamics Lab.”
As for Choudhuri’s future goals, he hopes to continue his work and research in the cSETR by making changes for future generations in the country to continue advancements in space technology while growing diversity in the workforce.
Lastly, Choudhuri leaves some advice for our current undergraduate and graduate students beginning their careers.
“You can go where you want to go, as long as you aspire to be there,” Choudhuri said. “Aspirations combined with hard work and commitment will get you there.”