Dr. Gerges, one of our fantastic Math Subject Expert Teachers, contributed to a paper that has been published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. He worked on the publication, Broadband Acoustic Broadband Lens Design Using the Principle of Reciprocity and Gradient-Based Optimization, with colleagues from both San Jose State University and Rutgers University.
We caught up with Dr. Gerges to congratulate him on this fantastic achievement, and also to ask him a few questions about his field. An explanation of the research was also in order, as it’s quite a complex topic.
Will you please tell us a little about yourself Dr. Gerges? What initially drew you to Mechanical Engineering?
When I was in high school I had a teacher who loved math. It was like his life was decorated by mathematical formulations. He made me love math and its applications. The natural progression for me was obvious: engineering. When I was accepted to the Military Technical College in Egypt (the school of engineering for the armed forces), I spent my first year studying courses from different departments. My highest scores were in Mechanics, Machine Drawing and Mathematics; therefore I was chosen for Mechanical Engineering, which I ended up both loving and excelling in.
When you began your education, did you imagine that you would end up teaching?
In school I specialized in Aircraft Mechanical Engineering. In this department I met one of the most brilliant minds, Ehab Hussein. He used to come to class holding in his hand just a piece of chalk (we did not have white boards and board markers back then) and holding in his head a full lecture. Once again, an amazing teacher changed my life and in seeing first-hand how much a teacher can inspire his or her students, I knew that I wanted to be like him. After a couple of years I was chosen to teach in the department of Engineering Mechanics. In this role I gained a lot of experience in teaching basic sciences related to mechanical engineering.
Please tell me how you got involved with your co-authors for your most recent publication?
Soon after joining the faculty at BISV, I learned that many BISV students do not take a true summer vacation at the end of the academic year. Our students tend to participate in internships, lab placements, collegiate summer programs, and other such endeavors over their summer break. Because I believe that students are the best teachers, I thought that I could follow their lead and also spend my summer months engaging in a fruitful activity. I searched for professors in the Bay Area who were actively researching topics related to my experience and I found the first author of the paper who is a professor in the department of Mechanical Engineering at San Jose State University. I contacted her to offer my help with her research over the summer, and she replied that she wanted to meet. We met at San Jose State University where she gave me a tour of the labs and we put broad lines to our cooperation. The work was supposed to include experiments performed in the lab but of course they were postponed due to obvious reasons, or, “He who must not be named.”
Can you explain a bit about the paper, and what the intention of the publication was? Please do so in a way that resonates for a layperson.
If you remember the first Harry Potter movie, Harry received The Cloak of Invisibility for Christmas. The concept of The Cloak of Invisibility could realistically be created using what is known as metamaterials. This idea of “invisibility” can be applied to acoustic waves as they are done with light waves. So we use the concept of metamaterials in building a structure that can cloak something acoustically. One example of this concept is that when acoustic waves are cloaked, they would be invisible to sonar.
Another aspect of the research reminds me of the times when I was mischievous by playing with a lens and placing it in the sun light to concentrate the light in one spot on a paper to make it hot enough to catch fire. The same idea of a “lens” can be realized acoustically by building a structure that can concentrate faint sound waves in a designated point. This has a lot of applications in passive surveillance. The design was created using mathematical modeling that has a lot of Differential Equations, Multivariable Calculus and of course Linear Algebra.
Are these topics ones that you would ever broach in the classes that you teach our Bobcats?
Actually I introduced the concepts found in this research to my Linear Algebra class by showing them videos that gave an introduction to meta-materials and its use in sound cloaking. I was very pleased by their reactions as they understood that this idea actually exists and works in practical applications. And then looking to next year, once my Differential Equations students are familiar with the mathematical methods used in the solution of such problems, I am planning on having more in-depth discussions about this research.
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