Colorado State University Professor Researches How Math Modeling is Applied to Sand Ripples

A Colorado State University math professor will soon be able to use math modeling to explain how water cascading over sand causes ripples on the ocean floor.

Vakhatang Putkaradze recently was awarded the Humboldt Research Fellowship Award for a proposal he wrote with a colleague from Germany, Joachim Krug. The two created a proposal to develop mathematical models to explain ripple formation and how their mathematical results could be applied to other physical phenomena.

"The theory of formation of sand ripples will help us eventually understand the erosion and dynamics of seashores and sea bottoms -in other words, how seashore changes with time," Putkaradze said. "We want to be sure that Los Angeles and San Francisco and Boston and New York are still there after 100 years or so. We are far from this point, though."

Putkaradze said it is difficult to find a mathematical equation that fits the ripples because waves pick up sand particles and throw them somewhere else. Putkaradze is trying to find a simple equation that tells him how the water picks up the sand and where it is deposited. With such an equation, he should be able to predict how the ocean looks in shallow water and how the shore evolves.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation grants up to 100 Humboldt Research Awards each year to researchers and scholars outside of Germany. The award recognizes the academic and lifetime achievements of the winners, according to the Humboldt Fellowship Web site.

"We are very pleased to have recently attracted Dr. Putkaradze to our department. He adds an exciting new dimension to our faculty," said Simon Tavener, chairman of the math department at Colorado State. "The Humboldt Fellowship is a prestigious award that recognizes Dr. Putkaradze’s accomplishments and potential and brings Colorado State worldwide recognition."

Putkaradze is leaving for Germany in September.  He will have funding for 12 months but plans at least one visit back to Colorado State in the summer of 2007.  

Putkaradze received his doctoral degree in physics and applied mathematics from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark in 1997. He was a professor at the University of New Mexico before coming to Colorado State.