UCF mechanical engineering alumnus Raghu Kancherla ’19PhD has been named the 2023 recipient of the Dilip R. Ballal Early Career Engineering Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ (ASME) International Gas Turbine Institute. This award is given to early-career engineers with outstanding accomplishments who show dedication to the field or turbomachinery.

Only one award is given per year and as this year’s recipient, Kancherla will receive a $2,000 honorarium and complimentary registration to the ASME Turbo Expo, an annual conference for engineers in academia, research and government who specialize in turbomachinery.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition from ASME,” Kancherla says. “I would like to thank my excellent team and my mentors over the years who have motivated me to pursue research related to combustion in gas turbines. This award is inspiring and makes me feel I will be more responsible in this field.”

Since 2021, Kancherla has worked as a senior combustion engineer for Power Systems Manufacturing LLC, a gas turbine company that focuses on clean energy solutions. In this role, he contributes to the design and development of hydrogen-fueled, low-emission gas turbine combustion systems.

Within the field, Kancherla’s already established a name for himself. He’s considered an expert in the areas of chemical kinetics, computational modeling and combustion systems testing, and he currently serves as a reviewer for 12 industry journals. His chemical kinetic models that have been used by scientists and researchers in academia, industry and government agencies like the U.S. Department of Energy to advance supercritical CO2 combustion technology.

Those chemical kinetic models were developed at UCF, under the tutelage of aerospace engineering Professor Subith Vasu. Kancherla says that UCF’s location and its Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research (CATER), housed within the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, factored into his decision to attend the university for his doctoral education.

“UCF has been situated in a prime location where most of the major energy equipment manufacturers in the world are located, and CATER and the Vasu Lab have been significantly contributing to the cutting-edge research that is vital for these industries,” Kancherla says. “Coming from a combustion background, I felt that Vasu’s lab was the right place to pursue my Ph.D. and to advance in the ambitious gas turbine sector.”

The Vasu Lab was indeed the right place for Kancherla. Vasu himself is a leading expert in combustion and chemical kinetics and was even featured in the Combustion Man documentary by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The professor is also familiar with the Diliip Ballal award, having received it in 2017.

“Raghu is an outstanding candidate for this award because of his tremendous achievements and contributions to advanced power generation concepts towards decarbonization that started when he was a Ph.D. student in my lab,” Vasu says. “His and I receiving (of) this award is also a testament to UCF CATER’s strong connections and interactions with the power generation industry.