College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ECpE Assistant Professor Wang wins seventh federal grant in two years

Iowa State University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) Harpole-Pentair Assistant Professor Zhaoyu Wang received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his project entitled “Data Generation for Interdependent Natural Gas and Electrical Power Systems Based on Graph Theory and Machine Learning.” This is Wang’s second NSF award since he began at Iowa State in fall 2015, in addition to his $1.7M United States Department of Energy grant awarded in June 2017 to do data-driven real-time distribution grid monitoring and modeling. Wang is also leading four other power grid modernization projects awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2016.

His most recent project contributes to the national challenge of modernizing energy systems by laying the data foundation for future research in interdependent critical energy infrastructure. It involves data-based approaches, such as data analysis, graph theories and complex networks, as well as power and natural gas engineering, to understand and model the interdependence between natural gas and power networks. These generated datasets will be validated using practical data and be available online through a project website. Wang said using practical models and data will make the research more convincing and applicable to industry.

Wang’s research team also includes Jianhui Wang and Mohammad Khodayar at Southern Methodist University, who have helped formed partnerships with the utilities industry in the Midwest and national laboratories so webinars will be given to a broad array of engineers and researchers on the results of this work.

Wang said the interdisciplinary research of big data and power systems will continue to be his group’s focus for the next few years.

“These grants represent a huge potential, as well as our group’s unique strength in applying machine learning and big data techniques to power system analysis and control,” Wang said. “All of these grants involve using practical utility data in research. With the help of ISU’s Electrical Power Research Center (EPRC), we have established close connections with many utility companies that are eager to know how to leverage the huge amount of data they have to improve their operations.”

Wang thanks the department, all ECpE power group faculty (especially Jim McCalley, Ian Dobson, Venkataramana Ajjarapu and Anne Kimber) and the EPRC in helping him get started at the early stages of his career.