Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

For many decades, UT PGE has held a strong reputation for its prestigious faculty members and Dr. Maša Prodanović continues the trend as she received the highly prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. 

The award is presented to outstanding junior faculty in sciences and engineering. This marks the first time in department history that an assistant professor receives the esteemed honor.

Prodanovic sits at a table working with a student.

“Maša is an outstanding member of our faculty who goes the extra mile to excel in her teaching, research, and service activities,” said UT PGE Professor Carlos Torres-Verdin. “We are immensely proud of her for this extraordinary accomplishment.”

The NSF award is for a $450,000 grant over the next five years to support Prodanović’s project entitled: "CAREER: Advanced interface methods in heterogeneous porous materials - a multi-disciplinary and multi-scale framework." Many natural and artificial processes involve the simultaneous flow of two or three fluid phases (ex. water, oil, and air) through porous media, however it is still critical to predict how fast the phases move through and whether they can be retrieved. The forecast is especially difficult in a karst formation, such as the Edwards Aquifer in Texas, which is a perfect example of heterogeneous rocks with a wide variety of pore space openings.

“My research will explore and quantify dynamic spatial fluid arrangements of water, contaminants/oil and air/gas from first principles, regardless of the inherent complexity of porous media or the preference of grain surfaces to a particular fluid (wettability),” said Prodanović. “To address this fundamental problem, the project will develop a flexible, multi-scale numerical method to accurately describe two- and three-fluid phase flow configurations in porous materials of heterogeneous wettability.”

Not only will the results from this project meet industry’s needs with solutions for multi-fluid flow through porous media, it will also educate future generations of engineers. Dr. Prodanović will coordinate help from the Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering’s Director of Education, Training and Outreach Program, Dr. Hilary Olson, visualization specialists from Texas Advanced Computing Center, education coordinators from the Austin Children’s Museum as well as NSF’s UTeachEngineering Program. The team will integrate outcomes into accessible online modules as well as create an interactive exhibit to be staged both at UT PGE and in the Austin Children’s Museum.