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Deputation to Florida Atlantic University, Florida, USA as Adjunct Professor and Visiting Research Scholar

Indian universities are now more open to establish the collaboration with foreign universities for various exchange programmes with an objective of accelerating the research in diverse field as well as to explore the best practices followed by the foreign universities. The international exchange programmes help the Indian researchers to refine the thought process, boost the self confidence and also to get recognition of their work.

Nirma University (NU) has good collaboration with many foreign universities for faculty and students exchange programme. One of the oldest and very active connection is with Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Florida, USA through which many students have benefited and shaped their career as per their endeavours. As a full time faculty member with Mechanical Engineering Department, Institute of Technology, NU, I was fortunate to get an opportunity to be a part of the faculty exchange programme between NU and FAU.

I was deputed to FAU for six months during July 2022 to December 2022 as Adjunct Professor and Visiting Scholar with Ocean and Mechanical Engineering (OME) Department. As an adjunct professor, I was assigned a course named “Computer Application in Engineering-1” to teach as an instructor. It is a mandatory course as per the requirement of OME department to get the Major from OME department. I enjoyed teaching the American students having different cultural background with nicely established infrastructures. Students were interactive and found this course interesting. The informal feedback from the students helped to boost my self confidence to the next level.

Considering my teaching and research, Dr Pierre-Philippe Beaujean (Chair OME) provided me an opportunity to deliver the “Graduate Seminar” to the senior semester students of OME department. The video recording of the seminar was made available to all the students of OME department through YouTube channel and received good viewers.

Apart from teaching a course, I was also involved in the research project at BioRobotics lab of FAU with Dr Erik Engeberg (Lab Director and Professor, OME). This lab majorly conducts the research in various domains related to biorobotics like prosthetics, application of robotics in biomedical, soft robotics, sensor development, etc. I was majorly involved in a soft robotic project which was originally funded by US navy wherein the objective is to develop a soft robotics underwater solution to study the ocean ecosystem. Unlike to other underwater robots, this robotic system is using soft actuators to manoeuvre underwater by replicating the locomotion mechanism of Jellyfish. The design space is very large for robotic jellyfish including the challenges of development of bio inspired locomotion system replicating the real Jellyfish using soft actuators, motion control and navigation, underwater imaging and surveillance, underwater communication and many more.

I was majorly contributing in carrying out the Fluid Structure Interaction (FSI) simulation to understand the science involved while the robotic jellyfish navigate underwater. The parametric design of the soft actuator was prepared and the effect of each geometrical parameter on the performance of the robotic jellyfish was studied. The outcome of the research will be published soon.

This six months of stay at foreign university with altogether a different work culture, different social environment and excellent research aptitude has benefitted me a lot to reorient my vision and future endeavours. It was a life changing, memorable, enjoyable and really fruitful visit. This visit resulted strengthening the collaboration between FAU and NU. Many possibilities of further collaborative research are now streamlined like more faculty exchange, students exchange, joint research project, dual doctoral degree programme, joint master degree programme, etc. The sharing and exchange of ideas and expertise between two universities is a win-win situation for both the universities by complementing each other.

Author Dr Mihir Chauhan (Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering Department)