A Conversation with David Orser—Teacher, and Mentor

David Orser joined ECE in 2016 as a teaching faculty hired to breathe new life into the laboratory experience of our degree curricula. He has been instrumental in introducing some substantive changes that have since shaped our students’ engagement with the hands-on parts of their ECE coursework. Project-based experiential learning can make  complex concepts more accessible, and our students are reaping the benefits of our newly refreshed labs. 

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with David and learn about his journey to ECE, his experience as a mentor, and his advice for students interested in robotics. 

Tell us about your educational background and what brought you to the University.  I graduated from Minnesota State University with a BSEE degree and started working for IBM developing custom chips for fiber optic networks. For the next ten years, I continued to develop cutting-edge custom mixed-signal chips while raising a family and finishing my Master’s Degree from the University of Minnesota through the UNITE program. Having always felt a call to teach, I decided to return to the University to earn a doctoral degree. I chose to shift fields slightly from microelectronics to power electronics, to expand my horizons. Over the course of four years, I earned my PhD by developing a new power converter control strategy, building a power converter to test it, while also working (separately) for MISO as a consultant on a project to scope both the cost and technical feasibility of a coast-to-coast 15GW macro-grid.

I have been working over the past four years to update our ECE lab curricula based on both, the teaching of fundamental concepts and by providing open-ended student-defined projects within our courses.

What are some key drivers that have motivated you in your academic and professional life?  All throughout my career, I have taken an active interest in developing new solutions to help my colleagues work more efficiently. From an automatic simulation submission systems, to a lab-based automated data generation and jitter analysis scripts, these tools are used even today by my former colleagues.  I love to extend my knowledge into new areas to develop solutions that help my teams solve problems, both current and in the future.

When you were hired as a teaching faculty, your primary charge was to innovate and update ECE’s lab curricula. Tell us about your work in the area.  I have been working over the past four years to update our ECE lab curricula based on both, the teaching of fundamental concepts and by providing open-ended student-defined projects within our courses. Each of the early weekly labs are tied to specific learning objectives. Those are followed by intermediate or final projects that allow students to address areas that interest them, but still meet specific course requirements and more importantly, tight deadlines.  These final projects span the entirety of our student experience here in ECE with at least one hands-on lab-based project each year. So far this includes the freshman Internet of Things showcase, sophomore low-level device API development for microcontrollers, junior design project, and the ECE senior design show.

Farmington High School’s FIRST Robotics team was recently in the news for a wheelchair the students built for 2-year old Cillian Jackson, who has mobility issues. You are a mentor for the team. How did you get involved with FIRST? 
I was introduced to FIRST by my eldest daughter, Siri. At the time she joined the Robotics Club in high school, I had no idea what FIRST was and didn’t coach that season. I simply showed up to support my daughter in the competition held at Williams Arena on campus and was blown away by the 2000-plus competing-cheering-helping-building teenagers inspired by technology. I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to help grow.

When my daughter joined the Robotics Club in high school, I had no idea what FIRST was. I simply showed up to support her in the competition and was blown away by the 2000-plus competing teenagers inspired by technology. I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to help grow, and now I have been a mentor for Farmington’s FIRST robotics team, Rogue Robotics, for 6 seasons.

How did the mobility device project for Cilliam Jackson come about? And how did the team handle it? The entire opportunity was an amazing experience. Late last November, I received a text message from the team’s  head coach that a family had reached out for help to build a mobility device for their 2-year old son. In less than two days, putting on hold a couple of pre-season training events, we pulled together a plan, and a schedule, and had both students and mentors signed up to contribute to the project. Over the course of the next three weeks, there were several  ups and down, as well as late nights, but we finished it just in time for Christmas!

How long have you been engaged with the Farmington team? And what are some of your responsibilities?  I have been a mentor for Farmington’s FIRST robotics team, Rogue Robotics,  for 6 seasons now. I am the lead programming mentor for the team and my primary responsibilities include teaching high school students how to program in C++, and develop control systems for the robot including Robot Vision and PID systems. I also play a primary role in the Aesthetics Team, which develops our LED-based cheering signs and robot bling. I am the most senior non-teacher mentor on the team and organize many of our non-school-based events, including student leadership lessons learned meetings, mentor season review meetings, conference attendance, and student summer projects.

I love that FIRST and Rogue Robotics provide students with both, the opportunity to learn new science and engineering skills, as well as the places to apply those skills to solve real problems.

What are some key highlights of working with the team?  I love that FIRST and Rogue Robotics provide students with both, the opportunity to learn new science and engineering skills, as well as the places to apply those skills to solve real problems. This includes obviously, doing the work to solve a problem, but more importantly, setting tight deadlines such that you must negotiate compromises among competing needs such as power, weight, complexity, time, etc. in order to be successful. Another part of the experience that I highly value is that students on the team have always jumped at the opportunity to help others, whether that is through a Feed My Starving Children outing, cleaning up a park, or building a wheelchair for a 2-year old boy.  To have students who ask to be taught, and then push to do more with those skills every week provides me with an incredible amount of energy.

What are some other volunteer opportunities you have previously engaged in, or are currently involved with?  I volunteer as an instructor with  University on the Prairie, a three day University of Minnesota outreach event for students entering grades seven through eleven in rural Lamberton, Minnesota. Using active and experiential learning techniques, I teach students engineering topics  such as soldering, electronics, and programming. At the end of the course, students take home a project (solar powered blinking owl, and 3D printed solar tracking servo motor) they have built over the three days.

I am also currently working on  projects that will expand the teaching of programming to high school students, both through FIRST and hopefully as a College in the Schools (CIS) course.

Seeing the work ethic, strength, and ingenuity of the FIRST Robotics students inspires me to expect more from our students. And my University  students always inspire me with how far they can reach. An instructor just has to ask, and our students will rise to the challenge. The CSE 1012 and EE 1301 project showcases are examples of the heights to which our students are capable of soaring.

How does your work in ECE connect with your mentoring activities? And does work in one area help trigger ideas, teaching/coaching methods, or learning outcomes in the other?  My work in ECE is focused on undergraduate education and the work I do in FIRST influences my teaching every day. For instance, I learned to teach closed-loop control to high school students, without advanced math, and in doing so developed robust analogies and real-world examples.  I use these analogies and examples in my teaching at the sophomore and junior levels in the department to illustrate the implications of complex mathematical theories.

Seeing the work ethic, strength, and ingenuity of the FIRST Robotics students inspires me to expect more from our students. And my University  students always inspire me with how far they can reach, from the EE 1301 students with no previous coding experience to students, in the very same class who come in with ten years of real-world coding experience. An instructor just has to ask, and our students will rise to the challenge. The CSE 1012 and EE 1301 project showcases are examples of the heights to which our students are capable of soaring.

What advice do you have for students interested in robotics ? As students, you will need to develop strong fundamentals through your math and science courses, and through your ECE-centered theory courses.  Regularly applying these theory skills in real-world environments and projects is critical to understanding which effects are important and which can be safely ignored or need to be bent. Learning to be a good engineer requires technical skills, but engineers who learn to work with others in spite of conflict, learn how to help others succeed, and learn to communicate to non-engineers, are the ones who will really succeed.

What is ECE’s role in your expanding portfolio of responsibilities?  My volunteer efforts are enabled by the department’s support of volunteer and outreach efforts as part of my appointment and through their financial donations to University on the Prairie and the Solar Vehicle Project. This support allows me to be involved at the level I am. The University and the department’s support is critical to the success of my volunteer efforts, and for that I am very grateful. 

Acknowledgements to Go Baby Go, and FIRST

Rogue Robotics credits the GoBabyGo program at the University of Delaware for providing technical help as they worked on the device for Cilian, and FIRST for opportunities and inspiration along the way.

Learn more about Prof. David Orser’s work

Best Paper Award for Prof. Ramesh Harjani, Naser Mousavi, and Zhiheng Wang

Prof. Harjani and his group has been awarded the 2018 European Solid-State Circuit Conference (ESSCIRC) Best Paper Award. ESSCIRC is the premier European conference in Integrated Circuit (IC) design. The paper was co-authored by PhD students Naser Mousavi, Zhiheng Wang, and Professor Harjani. The paper was presented at the 2018 European Solid State Circuits Conference held on September 2018 in Dresden, Germany.  The research was funded under the DARPA SPAR program. 

From left to right: Naser Mousavi, Zhiheng Wang, and Prof. Ramesh Harjani

ESSCIRC is the premier European Conference in Integrated Circuit (IC) design and the award-winning paper was presented at the European Solid State Circuits Conference held in September 2018 in Dresden, Germany. 
The research was funded under the DARPA SPAR program. 
One of the co-authors Naser Mousavi has since graduated with his doctoral degree.

Prof. Harjani and members of his team on their research

Prof. Harjani and members of his research group talk about analog and wireless circuits

Diqing Su, and Renata Saha are Winners at IEM Annual Retreat Poster Competition

Doctoral candidate Diqing Su, and doctoral student Renata Saha won best poster awards at the IEM (Institute for Engineering in Medicine) Annual Retreat. 

Diqing’s poster is titled “Large-Scale, High-Resolution Brain Sensing and Stimulation with Flexible Magnetic Nanosensors and Nanostimulators,” and was showcased in the Neural category.

Doctoral Candidate Diqing Su

The poster demonstrates the use of magnetic tunnel junctions as magnetic nanosensors for neuron signal detection. As magnetic fields are less impacted by the surrounding neuron cells as compared to electric fields or current, these magnetic nanosensors hold the potential of large-scale, high-resolution detection of neuron signals. The nanosensors can be integrated with magnetic neuron stimulators on flexible substrates using microfabrication techniques.

Diqing has been the recipient of several awards including the best poster award at the 2017 MMM Conference, and Outstanding TA award two years in a row. Her research interest is in developing magnetic nanosensors for biological applications, and she is working under the guidance of Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Jian Ping Wang. 

Renata Saha, a doctoral student in ECE, won the best poster award and was placed first within the Neural category. Her poster is titled, “Highly Tunable, Ultra-Low Power, Cellular-Level, Magnetic Neurostimulation through Flexible Spintronic Nanostructures.”

Doctoral Student Renata Saha

One of the reasons micromagnetic stimulation has an edge over deep brain stimulation (DBS) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is that a magnetic field has higher permeability through biological tissues. However, micromagnetic stimulation reportedly consumes 103 times more power than conventional DBS electrodes, which can have a detrimental effect on tissues. In her poster, Renata provides proof-of-concept that  magnetic materials from modern-age computer hard-disk drives can be used as next-generation implantable magnetic neurostimulators. These devices, known as spintronic nanodevices, being nanometer sized can activate neurons with cellular resolutions and can be fabricated onto flexible biocompatible substrates.

Renata, a recipient of a 3-year College of Science and Engineering fellowship, recently received the Brain Tumor Program travel grant from the University’s Masonic Center to share her work titled, “A Highly Tunable Skyrmion-based Neurostimulator (SkyNS) for Low-Power Cellular-Level Implantable Magnetic Stimulation” at the Annual Conference on Magnetism and Magnetic Materials (MMM 2019) to be held in Las Vegas in November. 

Recruitment for ECE Faculty Positions

Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities invites applications for faculty positions in Communications, Networking, and Data Science.

The Communications, Networking, and Data Science position invites applications at all levels (assistant, associate, and full professor). The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is fully committed to a culturally and academically diverse faculty; candidates who will further expand that diversity are particularly encouraged to apply.

Successful candidates will have outstanding academic and research records and are expected to establish a vigorous, funded research program, teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and be involved in service to the university and the profession.

An earned doctorate in an appropriate discipline is required at the time of the appointment. Rank and salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. Applications will be considered as they are received. Applications will be accepted until the positions are filled, but for full consideration, please apply on-line by December 15, 2019.

To be considered for a position, candidates must apply on-line at: https://humanresources.umn.edu/jobs and search for the Job ID No. 333489.

Questions can be directed to Professor Joey Talghader (Chair of the Search Committee) or Hallie White (Human Resources Coordinator) at ecedepth@umn.edu

Regents Professor Ned Mohan Receives 2019 IEEE IAS Outstanding Educator Award

Regents Professor Ned Mohan (NAE) is the recipient of IEEE’s 2019 IAS Outstanding Educator award. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to education and mentorship of students and young engineers within the fields of interest of the IEEE Industry Applications Society. 

The criteria for the award include development of educational materials, teaching and mentorship activities of students and young professionals, innovations in teaching and mentoring, awards and recognition for the same, and content development for the IAS resource center.

Ned’s contributions speak volumes about how well he deserves the award. What follows is a very brief roundup of his work till date. He has authored five books, widely used as textbooks in the power curriculum, which have been translated into 9 languages. He has also developed semester-long online courses for teaching, that are freely accessible at the CUSP web site

He has also developed several hardware laboratories that have been acquired by more than a 100 universities across the United States, besides institutions outside the country, and agencies such as NASA.

With funding from the Office of Naval Research, Ned has developed a controller that his postdoctoral associate Dr. Siddharth Raju has successfully licensed for a startup (www.sciamble.com), with the University of Minnesota holding a ten-percent equity stake in this company.

Ned has mentored undergraduate students (NSF-Research Experience for Undergraduates) and two high school teachers (NSF-Research Experience for Teachers). One of the students (from the University of Puerto Rico) returned as a doctoral student, graduating with a PhD in 2017. Most recently, Ned has developed a freshman course EE 1701 “Climate Crisis: Implementing Solutions” that is currently also being taught in high schools under the dual-credit, concurrent-enrollment program. Ned has graduated nearly 150 master’s students, and 46 PhDs. Currently, his research group comprises 8 doctoral students and 3 postdoctoral associates.

Ned has facilitated over 30 workshops for faculty (sponsored by the NSF, NAE, and other agencies) in the United States. He is the recipient of several awards and honors over the years including being elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2014, named Regents Professor (at the University of Minnesota) in 2019, and numerous IEEE awards. ECE is proud of Ned’s contributions and achievements, and the 2019 Outstanding Educator Award is an honor that he richly deserves!

Alumnus Profile: Robert Eddy

ECE alumnus Robert Eddy has been a longstanding advocate of the University of Minnesota. His support spans multiple areas, including University athletics (he often travels with the teams to their games), marching band, the University’s medical school, and the College of Science and Engineering. His particularly keen interest in these areas stems from his enthusiasm for the Gopher teams (who are supported by the energy and spirit of our marching band), his passion for cardiology and the University’s work in the area of heart health, and his zeal for his home college, the College of Science and Engineering (CSE), and the department he graduated from, ECE. 

As an engineer, Bob understands the value of hands on training, and he is an engaged and consistent supporter of experiential learning in CSE. The Solar Vehicle Project (SVP) is a case in point. Viewing the team as a space where students can translate what they learn in class to practical reality, test ideas, and innovate, he has contributed generously with his time (as chair of the SVP advisory board since its creation in 2015) and financial support, pushing the team to success. With Bob infusing the team with the competitive spirit, they are the number one cruiser class solar car team in the United States. In recognition of his various contributions to the team, SVP has been proudly displaying his name on their cars. (He is also the keeper of one of the team’s older cars, the Borealis III, storing it for the team). Bob’s dedication to and belief in the value of experiential learning is also borne out by his endowment of a generous scholarship in the department that will prioritize students who are part of the SVP. Contributors like him play a vital role in promoting the success of our students by offsetting the financial burden of attending college, and giving them the freedom to explore and participate in co- and extra-curricular opportunities.

Bob’s sphere of activities extend beyond his specific philanthropic commitments. At the University level, Bob is closely engaged with the Office of the President and the Board of Regents; his commitment to the institution continues with the change in leadership from President Eric Kaler to President Joan Gabel.  He has spent considerable time at the state legislature advocating for the University, working on garnering support for its mission and goals. Bob Eddy can undoubtedly be counted among the University’s staunchest allies and advocates. 

Robert Eddy attended the University of Minnesota in the 1970s and received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. He retired as the Chairman and President at Sherburne Tele Systems, Inc.in 2009, at which time, the company was acquired by Iowa Telecommunications Services. Bob lives in Big Lake, MN. 

Alumna Mona Ebrish Receives National Research Council Fellowship

Alumna Mona Ebrish has been awarded the prestigious National Research Council fellowship to start her post-doctoral position at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington DC. During the term of her fellowship, Mona will be be working on semiconductor materials with larger energy gap as compared to graphene, to be used in high voltage power applications. 

NRL, the U.S. Navy’s corporate research lab, is one of the oldest government research and development (R&D) labs, and is a world leader in wide bandgap semiconductors. The fellowship experience will further Mona’s knowledge in the field and carries the potential to open up future academic research opportunities to engage in.

Mona earned her doctoral degree in 2015, under the guidance of Prof. Steven Koester. Her graduate research focused on graphene, the two-dimensional form of carbon. Her dissertation titled “Graphene Quantum Capacitance Varactors,” is a study of the fundamental properties of the material and its use for biological sensing applications.

Post-2015, Mona joined IBM at their research and development facility in Albany, NY, and worked on projects related to current or near-future technologies for IBM servers.Over the course of her work as a graduate student and with IBM, she has learned that her passion lies in conducting  fundamental research that will help mature new technology. During her stint with the NRL, she will focus on the limitations of wide-band gap based devices, specifically vertical gallium nitride (GaN) diodes and explore ways to enable this technology to cover a higher range of voltage applications. GaN is a challenging material; it is difficult to grow thick defect free layers, and tune their polarity to optimum levels. The goal is to overcome these challenges, and unleash the potential of this material on the power electronics market.

Anushree Ramanath: Improving Clean Energy Practices

Doctoral candidate Anushree Ramanath is fighting the good fight: her research addresses the absence of an analytical basis and standard design procedure for designing a DC-DC converter with integrated magnetics. Her solution? A novel, descriptive approach, an analytical tool, and a hardware prototype that is an efficient, reliable, and cost-effective solution that can be used in residential solar installations. A woman with a myriad interests both academic and otherwise, one rarely sees her standing still. But we did manage to steal a couple of afternoons to talk to her and learn  more about her interests, and her journey to Minnesota.

Research Supporting Clean Energy

Anushree’s research interests are diverse yet complementary, spanning across power and renewable energy systems, embedded systems, and data science applications. Passionate about working at the intersection of electrical and computer sciences, she is interested in building robust systems that can tackle uncertainty, the design of complex systems, and communication using signals, systems, and networks that can support the development and spread of renewable energy systems. The latter especially has been a longstanding passion for her.

To facilitate the easy adoption of clean energy practices, it is critical to have  cost-effective, efficient, and reliable converters that can integrate renewables with the electric grid. Recognizing problems in the current process to design a DC-DC converter that can yield distortion free currents (critical for better power quality), she has focused her doctoral research efforts in this area. 

The design Anushree proposes is a highly efficient, extremely reliable and cost-effective solution that finds applications in residential solar installations.

A residential rooftop solar panel installation
A residential solar install

The integrated magnetics converter that Anushree has designed is integrated with an inverter, a device that converts solar energy to a usable form, yielding an equivalent of  a micro-inverter, a compact unit attached directly to each solar module in the power system. Distributing the conversion process across each module in the system makes the entire system more productive, reliable, and smarter than traditional inverter systems. 

Anushree’s design holds yet another interesting possibility: the designed integrated magnetics converter can be used alone without the inverter system. This would be specifically applicable to DC smart grids and energy storage applications. Her work also addresses the disparity in the longevity of solar panels and inverters by making the inverter last longer. The latter is accomplished by reducing current distortion at the input, thereby eliminating the need for large input capacitance, and allows for the use of a small capacitor at the output. This reduces overall system cost and the need for frequent maintenance.

Research Impact

Anushree’s research makes a direct contribution to the concept of zero net energy (ZNE) buildings, where total energy used by a building on an annual basis is roughly equal to or less than the amount of renewable energy generated on the site. California’s energy efficiency strategic plan for instance  mandates the development of  ZNE buildings: all new residential construction by 2020 and commercial construction by 2030. It also aids  the push to harness energy from renewable resources, with solar energy from rooftop solar panels contributing up to 40 percent of total electricity sales. It is also in step with five of the 17 global goals laid out by the United Nations for sustainable development: affordable and clean energy; industry, innovation and infrastructure; sustainable cities and communities; climate action; life on land.

While her work gains traction and makes directly applicable contributions, Anushree is also keenly aware of the sustained support she has received that has been instrumental  to her success. She credits Prof. Ned Mohan for the encouragement he has provided her beyond his role as a research advisor. As her mentor, he has shown her the ropes of approaching a research problem methodically and creatively, and has shared his own keen interest in renewables.

Anushree credits her advisor and parents for her success: “Prof. Ned Mohan is extremely approachable, caring, and encouraging. He is supportive of my endeavors and I probably would not have been able to accomplish all I have so far without his support. My parents instilled in me the value of hard work and curiosity, a strong work ethic, and the importance of giving back to the community. “

What Makes Anushree Tick?

Anushree’s motivation to work in her current research areas began early. Her interest in understanding how things worked, her creativity, and logical and analytical abilities led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University, in Karnataka, India. Her internships with industry leaders Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Electronic Relays India Private Limited, and Prok Devices Private Limited gave her experience with fabrication of solid state relays, and assembling with input-output modules, which revealed to her the unique space where electrical engineering meets computer science. The prospect of working in this space was exciting enough for Anushree to dive into honing her skills in C, C++, and Java. In her final year project (the equivalent of the senior design project in ECE) with Bosch Limited, she and her team were entrusted with designing and implementing an efficient rotor for an automotive alternator. As the team lead, Anushree gained leadership and project management skills, while also learning the value of teamwork.

Journey to Minnesota

Bachelor’s degree in hand, Anushree started work as an associate software engineer with Exeter, where she engaged in the complete software development life-cycle: design, development, integration, and testing. A couple of key projects she worked on are OneGate, a product for the US government’s healthcare initiative, and an end-to-end software solution development for long term client Kellogg School of Management. 

Group photograph, from left to right: Anushree Ramanath, Prof. Ned Mohan, and Anushree's parents
From left to right: Anushree, Prof. Ned Mohan, Anushree’s parents at the graduate student commencement ceremony for her master’s degree

Anushree however had her sights set on the future. Driven by her enthusiasm for research, she started planning her move to graduate school. Attracted by the reputation and opportunities within the graduate program in electrical engineering, and her keen interest in working with Prof. Ned Mohan, she applied to the University of Minnesota. Prof. Mohan’s expertise in power electronics and renewable energy systems, coincided with Anushree’s own interests, and being a close follower of his work, she discussed the possibility of working in his research group. ECE made an offer and happily for us, Anushree accepted! 

Eager to engage in research and contribute to the discipline, Anushree jumped in with both feet. But she was also cautious as to how significantly she could contribute to research, and whether she would enjoy the process. But a year into her program, working with her research group and interning, she was convinced that the doctoral program was indeed for her. 

From Theory to Practice

As a doctoral student conducting research in power electronics, Anushree has actively sought out opportunities to engage in industry practices while also contributing to them. She has interned with Eaton Corporation as a research aide appointed by the Argonne National Laboratory’s Energy Systems division. During her time there, she worked on  power electronics, smart grid, advanced controls, cloud computing, and IoT projects, and was instrumental in facilitating the setup of Eaton’s energy management circuit breaker using IoT. While at Cummins Inc. as a systems control engineer, Anushree facilitated the setup of their first microgrid hardware-in-the-loop simulator and developed model libraries for some key components. During her second stint with  Cummins Inc. as a power electronics and firmware research & technology (R&T) intern, she contributed to the development of a high-power inverter for traction applications. Beyond her strictly engineering responsibilities, she has also engaged in their community-building activities and represented the company at the 2018 SWE (Society for Women in Engineering) Annual Conference.

Awards and Accolades

Anushree has had the opportunity to share her research at several prestigious fora, including the NSF sponsored workshop at the National Academy of Sciences in   Washington DC, IEEE PEDES 2018, IEEE IECON 2018, IEEE PECI 2019 at Illinois (received the best poster award for her doctoral research; her participation was funded by an NSF travel grant award based on an abstract of her research work), Sustainability and Energy Expo 2019 at Minnesota, and several NSF sponsored workshops organized at the University of Minnesota. 

Awards and honors are not new to Anushree. At the age of nine, Anushree was a gold medalist for excellence in mathematics, an award presented by the University of New South Wales Global (an enterprise of the University of New South Wales, Sydney). She was also the state-wide gold medalist when graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2013.

In her effort to encourage and support women engineers, she has discussed her research at meetings organized by ACM-W and Girls Who Code. She has also been the recipient of multiple awards at University-wide fora including a team effort win at a Twin Cities hackathon (the largest one, actually) for building a hardware prototype and website called FishInA.net in about 20 hours. 

Life Beyond Research

Anushree’s interests do not end with her research. Having benefited from Prof. Mohan’s keen interest in encouraging women to enter the engineering field, she is now passing it on by being a mentor to undergraduate women through groups such as WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), and WIE (IEEE Women in Engineering). She is also a volunteer with SWE and GWC (Girls Who Code). An engaged member of the University community, she is involved in cultural events and groups across campus, and as a lover of the outdoors, she is an avid backpacker and camper when the opportunity presents itself. In the long list of interests and activities Anushree is engaged in, is painting. Never having missed the opportunity to wield a brush, her work has been selected to be displayed at the University’s Arts Quarter Festival to be held in October, on the west bank of the campus. She has also generously shared her time as judge for various undergraduate project showcases and is currently the director of communications and public affairs for the Council of Graduate Students. And she is a certified yoga instructor!

For students interested in pursuing graduate education, Anushree says, “Graduate school demands consistent and sincere effort. But if you are passionate about what you want to study and work towards, everything falls in place.”

She emphasizes the importance of maintaining a good work-life balance for healthy living, building long lasting friendships, learning about different cultures, and pursuing different experiences, while maintaining good academic standing, and research progress. 

About her time at the University, she says: “I love the many opportunities our campus has to offer: well-equipped libraries, sophisticated fitness centers, physical education classes, music lessons, art workshops, classes on entrepreneurship, alumni-networking events. It is up to us to utilize as much as we can when we are here and also give back to the community that has given us so much.” 

The Road Ahead

For Anushree, the road ahead is uncharted and exciting. Her enthusiasm for research is unflagging, but she is also deeply aware of the value of knowledge and skills she can acquire in an industry setting. Her hope is to participate in next-generation research in the commercial/industrial realm, and actively seek out opportunities to engage with academia to further research, and encourage a robust and seamless exchange of  knowledge. 

Learn more about Anushree’s research, publications, and interests at her personal web site.

Mohit Sinha Wins 2019 Best Dissertation Award

The University of Minnesota Graduate School’s Best Dissertation Award for 2019 has been conferred on alumnus Mohit Sinha in the physical sciences and engineering category. The award comes with a $1,000 honorarium. 

Mohit’s research bears tremendous potential in enabling next-generation power systems driven by power-electronics based energy conversion interfaces. In his dissertation titled, “On Decentralized Control of Power Electronics Using Nonlinear Oscillators,” he presents theoretical tools and hardware prototypes for decentralized control of power electronic interfaces on an electrical network. His work is particularly relevant in the changing landscape of power generation: renewable systems, energy storage devices, and electric vehicles are being rapidly integrated into power systems using ad hoc control control architectures. Mohit’s work addresses the situation: he has developed control strategies to enable self-organizing power-electronic systems. And beyond the specific problem, Mohit’s work has broad-ranging impact. His research contributes to advances outside power-electronics, extending to control and circuit theory. 

Mohit earned his doctoral degree under the guidance of Prof. Sairaj Dhople. Supporting his nomination, he says, “Mohit has shown academic aptitude and ambition above and beyond his peers. While actively engaged in research on power and energy systems, Mohit has taken challenging graduate level courses. It is clear that Mohit has a very strong desire to learn. Given how power and energy systems research is technically diverse and requires a holistic perspective spanning many different engineering disciplines to make a truly lasting impact, it is evident that Mohit is well-equipped to have a very successful career.” 

Mohit is currently a postdoctoral research associate with Idaho National Laboratory.

The University’s Graduate School recognizes top recent Ph.D. graduates with ‘best dissertation’ awards. The award is given in each of four broad areas: arts & humanities (including history and philosophy), biological and medical sciences, physical sciences and engineering, and social and behavioral sciences and education. One graduate student from each of the areas is chosen by faculty from the broad disciplinary area. Selection criteria are originality and importance of the research, and potential for the student to make an unusually significant contribution to their field. Mohit being honored with the award is also to be considered in the context of the physical sciences and engineering area: the College of Science and Engineering typically awards approximately 250 doctoral degrees each year, and each category of the Graduate School award usually has between 5 to 7 nominations. That Mohit’s dissertation was recognized amongst all others, speaks volumes about his work. 

Tribute to Prof. Jack H. Judy

We are sad to announce that Prof. Jack H. Judy passed away peacefully in his sleep Sunday, March 24, 2019 in the Haven Hospice center in Gainesville, Florida surrounded by his wife Bette and sons Jack and Michael.

Dr. Judy made many significant contributions to understanding the fundamental limitations of thin film media and developing ways to improve media performance. He was a pioneer in the observation of zig-zag domain walls at the edge of longitudinally recorded bits that cause transition noise and he showed they are partly caused by microstructure. Further work in media led to CoCr alloy structures and the use of C-N overcoats. He contributed to the demonstration of extraordinary properties in Co/Pd multilayers grown on indium-tin-oxide for use as perpendicular recording media. He also contributed to the understanding of thin films and magnetic materials for GMR recording sensors and magnetic random access memories.

Prof. Jack H. Judy

He consistently emphasized the sharing of knowledge and the education of students and fellow scientists. He authored more than 180 papers and directly supervised more than 50 students. Many of his students became leaders in the magnetics industry and in academia. He founded the Center for Micromagnetics and Information Technology (MINT) at the University of Minnesota. He was also one of the original founders of The Magnetic Recording Conference.

Dr. Judy received B.S.E.E and M.S.E.E. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the PhD degree from the University of Minnesota, where he was a professor since 1969. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota, he worked at the IBM Storage Systems Division in Boulder Colorado.

He received many external honors, including having been named a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and receiving the Technical Achievement Award of the National Storage Industrial Consortium and the IEEE Magnetics Society 2008 Achievement Award for “contributions to the understanding and improvement of thin films for magnetic recording.”

Beginning as a student member of the Magnetics Society, Dr. Judy contributed his time and energy to the Society in many capacities. He served as chair of the Twin Cities section, as a Distinguished Lecturer, participated in the organizing of TMRC and PMRC conferences, and served on the Society’s Administrative Committee and the Distinguished Lecturer and Education committees. He was a Life Fellow of the IEEE.

Jack was our mentor and dear friend. We feel very fortunate to know him and work with him. The University of Minnesota is also proud to have had Jack as a professor and leader on magnetic recording technology and magnetic materials. He helped Minnesota become one of the few leaders on magnetic recording and magnetic materials research worldwide. 

(contributed by Jian-Ping Wang and Randall Victora, ECE Department, University of Minnesota)