Nithan Govindarajan

·  Hometown: S’-Gravenhage, The Netherlands
·  B.S. Degree:  Aerospace Engineering (BSc and MSc)
·  Degree sought from UCSB and Progress:  PhD Mechanical Engineering
·  Important Awards and Honors: CCDC Fellowship
·  Graduate Study Area: Dynamical systems & control
·  Main Area of Research: Operator theoretic methods in Dynamical systems
·  Advisor and Lab: Igor Mezic (advisor), Shivkumar Chandrasekaran (co-advisor)
·  Research Interests: Operator theory, dynamical systems, control and computation
·  Professional Memberships: 
·  Hobbies:  Wing chun kung fu, traveling

Currently what are you working on? 

I am currently working on developing code for a numerical scheme that approximates spectral properties of the Koopman operator for volume preserving dynamics on compact metric spaces.

What is your education background?

I have done my Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering.

What are your long-term research goals?

Well, in terms of my PhD I want to make huge progress in methods for computating spectral properties of the Koopman operator. The information embedded in the eigenfunctions of this operator are key to understanding a lot of important properties of dynamical systems. The tools for approximating these quantities are however still underdeveloped, and I hope to fill up this void.

List some of your favorite publications.

This is a nice question, since lately I have picked up an interest in reading some of the seminal papers that made a massive impact to the world. I am trying to understand the minds of these great people, and the psychology behind how they got to these amazing breakthroughs.

In the control arena, I find Kalman’s classic the field altering paper:

R.E. Kalman – A new approach to Linear Filtering and Prediction problems (1960)

In the more general mathematical sciences, I am really fascinated by the classic paper of Alan Turing on computable numbers. I am not fully at grips with all the concepts put out by this paper, but I am aware that the ideas laid out in this paper form the foundations for the modern computer. This makes me very curious, and I am reading it in my leisurely time:

Alan Turing – On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

This really happened by accident, originally I was interested in doing something with networked control systems. However, after taking a class on dynamical systems theory, my interested started slowly shifting. I had a control’s background, and the concepts thought were knew to me.

Why did you select UCSB in regards to your research?

I based my decision on the research done by the faculty. The funny thing however is that I never knew about Igor before starting my PhD here. In retrospect, everything is playing out nicely. I am really enjoying my time here and learning everyday.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

Do you know that phase which everybody goes through as a kid where you always have questions about everything. The research environment in our lab is basically a bunch of people who never outgrew that phase. In the meantime, we are creating solutions to problems that can have meaningful impact to the world. 

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of your collaborations.

I am being co-advised by Dr. Chandrasekaran from the ECE department. Since I am working on numerical methods for applications in dynamical systems theory. We believe that this collaboration will lead to some innovate work.

Your thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor:

My advisors are really cool people, and so are my colleague graduate students.

Where will your research take you next?

I hope to become an assistant professor somewhere. But these things are very hard to predict.

Life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life?

The balancing act is extremely important. I try to get enough physical activity, since sitting everyday can be damaging to your health. 

What is your social life like and where have you lived?

I lived most of my life in the Netherlands. Back there, I used to practice a martial art (wing chun) for a very long time. I was fortunate enough to meet some really extraordinary teachers. Right now, I don’t really have the chance to train seriously, but I hope to pick it up one day again.