College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ECpE’s Zhaoyu Wang recognized with prestigious Outstanding Young Engineer Award

Each year, the Power & Energy Society (PES) recognizes one engineer worldwide to receive the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) PES Outstanding Young Engineer Award. According to the PES website, the purpose of the award is to recognize engineers 35 years of age or under for “Outstanding contributions in the leadership of technical society activities including local and/or transnational PES and other technical societies, leadership in community and humanitarian activities and evidence of technical competence through significant engineering achievements.”

This year, Iowa State University‘s own Zhaoyu Wang, assistant professor with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE), was selected to receive the award. The recognition comes as a result of Wang’s work toward developments in conservation voltage reduction, microgrid and distribution system control and management, and resilience and restoration enhancement. Wang says his research is used to assist in the optimization of utility systems.

“These works are helping utilities increase energy efficiency, promote renewable energy integration and enhance power grids’ reliability,” Wang said. “My conservation voltage reduction work was supported by the National Science Foundation to help utilities save energy with minimal cost, and the microgrid and resilience enhancement work was supported by the Department of Energy to protect our nation’s power grids against extreme weather events.”

Since joining the department in 2015, Wang has had the opportunity to work with many faculty members, one of whom is distinguished ECpE professor James McCalley. It was McCalley who recognized Wang’s work and nominated him for the award. Wang said without McCalley and several others, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

“Dr. Jim McCalley nominated me for this award. He spent a lot of time and effort preparing the nomination package and collecting reference letters from utility, national labs and universities. Ever since I joined the department,  I have continued to learn from his dedication, solid research and extraordinary leadership,” Wang said. “I also want to thank Dr. Ian Dobson and Dr. Venkataramana Ajjarapu. Dr. Dobson is a great colleague and a good friend. He is a well-respected researcher in our area, and I learned from him on how to build solid and in-depth research programs. Dr. Ajjaprau is very knowledgeable and a true expert in power systems. He is also very supportive to young researchers. We have collaborated in several Department of Energy grants. Interactions with him are always enjoyable. In addition, I especially want to thank Dr. Anne Kimber who is the director of the Electric Power Research Center. Anne and I are very close collaborators in almost all projects that I have. She connected me with quite a few utilities and helped me get real data from these utilities, which greatly benefits our research.”

For young engineers seeking to find their passion and emulate Wang’s success, Wang said finding your niche is key.

“Find some problems that you are interested in and believe in, and then keep doing them. Collaborating with industry and understanding their real needs is essential to us,” Wang said.

Although he has now been nationally recognized, Wang said he has no plans to slow down his research.

“I will continue my research in optimization and data analytics in power distribution systems and microgrids,” Wang said. “I will continue to grow and strengthen our collaboration with utilities. I hope our research outcomes can be used by power companies, thus benefiting the industry.”

The awardees are usually honored at an Award Gala in IEEE PES General Meeting each year. However, the event was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, and the PES is still working out how to present the honors virtually.