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A new computational tool is presented in this paper for suboptimal control design of a class of nonlinear distributed parameter systems. First proper orthogonal decomposition based problem-oriented basis functions are designed, which are then used in a Galerkin projection to come up with a low-order lumped parameter approximation. Next, a suboptimal controller is designed using the emerging /spl thetas/-D technique for lumped parameter systems. This time domain sub-optimal control solution is then mapped back to the distributed domain using the same basis functions, which essentially leads to a closed form solution for the controller in a state feedback form. Numerical results for a real-life nonlinear temperature control problem indicate that the proposed method holds promise as a good suboptimal control design technique for distributed parameter systems.