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MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Electric Power Earns a Boost

Two of the Grainger scholars, Stephanie Miller and Erick Aponte, work with Prof. Keith Nelson on Rensselaer's 2.3 MV facility. Photo by Mark McCarty.

This spring, Rensselaer received a gift of $1 million from the Grainger Foundation of Lake Forest, Ill., to endow the Grainger Electric Power Engineering Student Award Program. The program, under the direction of J. Keith Nelson, the Philip Sporn Professor of Electric Power Engineering, will invest the funds in the Rensselaer endowment in perpetuity, with its annual income to fund undergraduate and graduate student awards.

“This gift provides a welcome incentive to expose students to the discipline of electric power engineering, a field in which there is a great demand for young engineers but yet has too few applicants,” says Nelson. “The Grainger Foundation had been making an annual contribution to fund student awards for the past several years. This year, they took steps to make the program permanent.”

The goal of the student award program is to continue to attract and reward well-qualified U.S. students into the electric power engineering profession. “Beginning the awards at the undergraduate level is important in attracting students into the profession,” says Nelson, “and for providing a pool of candidates for Rensselaer master’s degree program in electric power engineering.” The award currently has a monetary value of $7,500 for undergraduates in their junior and senior years, and is renewable for one year. The one-year award at the graduate level is $10,000.

“The need for power engineering professionals with interdisciplinary backgrounds is greater than ever,” Nelson says. “Our program at Rensselaer engages students in the study of practical problems and applications in the electric power field. Many of the faculty have had significant industrial experience with manufacturers, which gives the program an apparatus emphasis. This resonates with the interest that David Grainger, the foundation’s president, has for electric machines.”

High-performing students graduating from Rensselaer can find themselves rising quickly through the ranks within leading manufacturers and power companies around the world, Nelson says. He notes that there is great potential in the field, whether it is in satellite-relaying technology, computer-based control, alternative energy concepts, or other research areas, such as those based on recent advances in power electronics and superconductivity.

Today’s power engineer is not only involved in engineering, but in the business aspects of a power company as well. Nelson says there is a “sweet spot” in the field that Rensselaer, with an established reputation for the caliber of its graduates, is uniquely positioned to fill: the nexus of power engineering, management, and marketing the power utility as a business in an increasingly open market. In recognition of this, the department now offers a course titled The Utility as a Business, taught by Adjunct Professor George Berry, the former president and chief operating officer of the New York Power Authority.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in March, June, September, and December by the Office of Communications.

 
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