Tarik Dzanic is Computing’s seventh Sidney Fernbach Postdoctoral Fellow in the Computing Sciences. Named for a former LLNL Director of Computation, this competitive fellowship is awarded to exceptional postdocs who demonstrate the potential for significant achievements in computational mathematics, computer science, data science, or scientific computing. Fellows work in the Computing Principal Directorate on their own research agenda and with a mentor’s guidance.

Tarik joined the Lab in June after completing his PhD in ocean engineering at Texas A&M University. Originally from Bosnia, he moved with his family to the U.S when he was six years old and spent his remaining childhood years in Atlanta where he dabbled in computers by way of video games.

“I didn’t really get into computer science until college,” Tarik recalls. “I was a big fan of Formula One [racing] and wanted to work for a Formula One team. It turns out one of my undergrad professors collaborated with a team, so I worked with them on developing computational fluid dynamics methods for aerodynamics. That experience essentially kickstarted my research interest in computational physics, which is still the focus of my work today.”

Tarik went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. Soon after, he began a PhD program at Texas A&M. Acting on the suggestion of his PhD advisor, Tarik applied and was hired into the Computing Scholar Program in the summer of 2020. His initial summer project was unrelated to his schooling and background—using deep reinforcement learning for adaptive mesh refinement in computational physics simulations—but it captured his interest, and he continued working on the project throughout his PhD program.

“Those years were valuable because I became quite familiar with the Lab even before officially joining as a Fernbach Fellow,” Tarik says.

Tarik plans to spend his fellowship developing new algorithms and testing them in computational physics simulations, particularly related to gas dynamics and magnetohydrodynamics. “I’ll be collaborating with the MFEM team in the Center for Applied Scientific Computing (CASC) as well as my mentor Bob Anderson to validate these algorithms and integrate them into the MFEM solver.”

As a Fernbach Fellow, Tarik looks forward to making an impact on current and future Lab problems as well as contributing to the finite element methods community at large.

“There’s a lot of unsolved—but not unsolvable—challenges in the field,” Tarik says. “Generally, we want to ensure that when we run a simulation, the results we get are meaningful and accurate. My work is going to help improve numerical methods to guarantee that the predictions will always be physically correct, so that users can have more confidence in the results of the simulations. Ultimately, the plan is to apply these improved methods to multiphysics simulations, including inertial confinement fusion problems.”

Deanna Willis