Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Join With Us In Celebrating Our 2020 Graduating Class! 

Since its founding in 1893 by two legends, George Westinghouse and Reginald Fessenden, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt has excelled in education, research, and service.  Today, the department features innovative undergraduate and graduate programs and world-class research centers and labs, combining theory with practice at the nexus of computer and electrical engineering, for our students to learn, develop, and lead lives of impact.


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Mar
30
2021

Research on New Magnetic Materials Gets AMPED Up

Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (March 30, 2021) — As society continues to grapple with the realities of climate change, it looks toward electric vehicles and renewable energy as technological solutions. With these growing technologies, however, there is a greater need for improved soft magnetic materials that can operate in these systems. Meeting this need requires an interdisciplinary skillset, including materials science, applied physics, and electrical engineering, as well as collaboration with end-users in industry. A new consortium created to address this gap, focused on the research and development of magnetic materials for power electronics systems, has received $60,000 in funding from a University of Pittsburgh Momentum Funds Teaming Grant. The consortium, Advanced Magnetics for Power and Energy Development (AMPED), will include members from several schools at Pitt, as well as North Carolina State University and Carnegie Mellon University. “There’s been a historical gap in research and development funding to support these quickly emerging areas, both with new and established industries in the electric power sector,” said Brandon Grainger, Eaton Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Our hope is that with this funding, we can invest in the relationships and innovation spaces needed to fill that gap.” Grainger, who is also associate director of the Energy GRID Institute and co-director of AMPED, is leading the effort to establish AMPED at the University of Pittsburgh with Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and material science and director of AMPED. Faculty leadership of the consortium also includes Director Michael McHenry and Co-Director Maarten DeBoer from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as Director Subhashish Bhattacharya and Co-Director Richard Beddingfield from North Carolina State University. At Pitt, Grainger and Ohodnicki are joined by Rabikar Chatterjee from the Katz Graduate School of Business and Daniel Mosse from the School of Computing and Information. Chatterjee will bring to the consortium his experience and research in technology-to-market planning and competitive analyses. “Understanding the potential markets and assessing their needs warrants a business perspective, for which the Katz Graduate School of Business can provide the expertise,” said Chatterjee. “I am personally very excited to be part of the team, given my industry experience and research interests that cover the analysis of business markets and assessing the markets’ response to technology-driven innovation. Energy and sustainability are important priorities at Katz for faculty and graduate students, and this project is right in our sweet spot.” On the technological side, Mosse will help to develop novel algorithms for optimizing magnetics and power electronics technology. "It is exciting to participate in this interdisciplinary team with the promises of developing new technologies that will improve efficiency in electric vehicles, the smart grid, and other devices, all with the goal carbon emissions,” said Mosse. “This is the first step toward developing a large collaborative center where industry, academia, and governmental partners will come together to make great things happen, all in pursuit of a cleaner, more sustainable world." The Teaming Grant is a one-year award to support the formation of multi-disciplinary collaborations at Pitt to successfully pursue large-scale external funding. AMPED will use the funds to establish synergies through facilitated team collaborations, supporting graduate student stipends, and investing in lab space at the Energy GRID Institute at Pitt. The group hopes to attract federal funding to further their research, and welcome corporate partners to the consortium to fuse research with industry needs. “More research into improved magnetic materials is crucial for a sustainable future, and it’s important that we’re working in harmony with people at all stages of the research and development process, from theory to manufacturing. Establishing this consortium within the university system also ensures that we can provide industry with the interdisciplinary, skilled workforce required to support their needs moving into the future,” said Ohodnicki, who is also chief technology officer for the soft magnetics manufacturing startup CorePower Magnetics. “I am thrilled to be working with a team whose skills and expertise have the potential to have an enormous impact on the future of energy.”
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
23
2021

Opening the Door for Women in Engineering at Pitt

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles

When Emmy Lou Haller decided to study engineering at the beginning of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “It takes a lot of courage to go into a school where the students are all men.” The numbers have improved since Haller earned her degree in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Today, first-year female recruitment in the Swanson School of Engineering is nearing 40 percent, and women represent a third of the undergraduate population and more than a quarter of graduate students. That’s an impressive feat for a discipline that is typically male-dominated – and above the 21.9 percent of women who earned engineering degrees in the U.S., according to a 2018 study by the American Society for Engineering Education. “When I was an undergrad in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, I was typically one of two or three girls in a classroom of 40 students. I only had two female engineering professors during my entire undergraduate studies,” said Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. “This often led me to feel like I didn’t belong or have what it takes to be a successful engineer.” This feeling partially inspired Hornbostel to become a professor and improve female representation in engineering education. “I want future female engineering students to have a role model and feel like they belong,” she said. “Whenever I teach undergraduates at Pitt, I’m so encouraged by the number of female students in my classroom. I love how they seem so comfortable speaking up and asking questions. Representation truly makes a difference.” Back in 1933 and despite being the only woman among a crowd of male peers, Haller enjoyed her studies and graduated at the top of her class. Coming from a family of engineers and preferring mathematics to dolls, her career choice was destined, but the journey would be difficult. For Haller, who transferred to Pitt from the all-women’s Sweet Briar College after her freshman year, community had to be found outside of the classroom. In addition to her engineering studies, Haller was also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and Quax, a women's honorary science sorority founded by seven female science majors in 1919. Today, more so than in the early 20th century, women at Pitt can still find opportunities to connect with their peers through numerous groups, such as DIVA (Determined Intelligent Victorious Available), a student run organization dedicated to empowering women of color in the Swanson School. Engineering alumna Brianna Pinckney (BS CEE’15) got her first taste of female leadership when she was asked to lead DIVA by her mentor Yvette Moore, director of Pitt EXCEL. “I had no idea this role would unleash an unknown passion to support, challenge and help expose other women to achieving personal and professional opportunities they most likely would not consider for themselves,” she said. “Women-led organizations have also taught me that we (women) don't have to compete for success; we're stronger as a unit by encouraging and celebrating each other and building off of previous success stories.” These organizations have effectively helped women create community and network of support in pursuing research and a career in STEM. Confidence to Succeed Amid New Challenges Haller’s research at Pitt included studying downtown department stores and determining the amount of light that attracts the most public attention to store window displays. She hoped to continue research in Pittsburgh after graduation and was optimistic about her prospects. “I think the average woman can accomplish more with a buttonhook or a hair pin than the average man does with the aid of a step ladder, a whole set of tools and a wife to hand him things,” she said in the Post-Gazette article. Haller’s enthusiasm for engineering and bold career move helped open the door for other women to enter the field; however, for some, the journey still is not simple. “As a female engineer, we are often told to quickly establish our presence and find our voice amongst the sea of men in our industry; as a minority female, the pressure to define your role and prove your worth is only intensified,” Pinckney said. “With more than five years of industry experience under my belt, I've challenged myself to engage in conversations and opportunities that positively highlight my knowledge, experience and ultimately my worth as a team member.” As the field continues to grow and adapt to the changing workforce, leaders and mentors play a pivotal role in motivating and inspiring people of all genders, races, and backgrounds. “Having a support system through EXCEL, DIVA, and our advisor Ms. Moore has been crucial to my success as an engineer,” said Fodun Ologunde, a senior computer engineering student who also serves as a leader and social media chair of DIVA. “From professional workshops to wellness seminars, the ladies created a safe space and provided the motivation to keep going. It is always encouraging to engage with women who have shared experiences and who genuinely care about my success and wellbeing as an engineer and also as a friend.” During Women’s History Month and the 175th anniversary of the Swanson School of Engineering, the university community can also celebrate 98 years of women in engineering at Pitt. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished in the Swanson School, and it is a legacy which I think Emmy Lou Haller would be tremendously proud,” said Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Industrial Engineering. “However, we still have a way to go to not only have parity, but to improve equity within the field itself. To do that, we will continue to recruit the next generation of women engineering students to Pitt.” # # # Image 1: Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials scienceImage 2: Brianna Pinckney (BS CEE’15), Business Development Engineer, Turner ConstructionImage 3: Fodun Ologunde, a senior computer engineering student and leader and social media chair of DIVAImage 4: Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Industrial Engineering, and Director of the Engineering Education Research Center

Feb
25
2021

ECE Professor Heng Huang Receives Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 25, 2021) — Heng Huang, the John A. Jurenko Endowed Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has been named a Senior Scholar in this year’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Awards. The Award honors faculty members who have an outstanding record of research and academic achievement. Recipients received letters from Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and will receive a $2,000 cash prize and a $3,000 grant to support their teaching, research or public service activities. The selection committee noted that they were impressed by Huang’s “exceptional contributions to machine learning, artificial intelligence and biomedical data science, which have made an impact on a national and international scale and have a wide range of industrial applications.” His peers remarked, “Dr. Huang’s accomplishments are among the most significant contributions to the fields of machine learning, bioinformatics, and neuroinformatics in recent years.” They added, “Dr. Huang is a truly gifted and unique outstanding researcher with extraordinary skills and abilities in the research of data mining and machine learning.” You can find the full list of this year’s recipients in the University Times.

Feb
24
2021

One to Watch: College Student Prepares to Help Shape the Future of Electrical Engineering

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

Reposted from IEEE. Click here to view the original story. Poised to graduate with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) in 2022, Maurice Sturdivant, who hails from Toledo, Ohio, is excited by the prospect of joining the next generation of electrical engineers. Maurice’s interest in engineering was sparked when he began thinking about possible college majors in high school. Originally intent on studying patent law, Maurice had thought to study engineering to build up his technical background. The more he learned about the field, however, the more interested he became in it – especially the opportunities it afforded in terms of applying his technical skills in a hands-on fashion. Through further research and co-op experience, he came to realize that preparing for a career related to electrical power and renewable energy was just what he was looking for. “Electrical engineering is a very broad field, and I liked all the possibilities – especially when it comes to making sure we have sustainable power systems for the future,” he explained. “More than anything, I was drawn in by knowing there are plenty of ways that I can contribute and make sure my work counts.” An active member of the Pitt chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power and Energy Society (PES), Maurice noted that mentorship has played a prominent role in his life, and he is looking forward to the day when he can “pay it forward” and mentor others. It was, in fact, largely due to the encouragement he received from Dr. Robert Kerestes, director of Pitt’s Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Program, to “put himself out there and get involved” that led Maurice to join IEEE/PES on campus. “As a student member [of IEEE], I have gotten to know both undergraduate and graduate students through our PES club, which has expanded my network and given me the opportunity to learn about their different perspectives. Everyone has their own reasons for choosing this major, but we’re all connected by our common interests.” Maurice also serves as parliamentarian of the Pitt chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, is vice president of the Panther Amateur Radio Club, and is actively involved in the Pitt EXCEL Program – an undergraduate diversity program committed to the recruitment, retention, and graduation of academically excellent engineering undergraduates, particularly individuals from groups historically underrepresented in the field. It was all of these things, in addition to two co-op rotations at GE Power Conversion, and his participation in the Pitt EXCEL Summer Research Internship (SRI) under Brandon Grainger, PhD, assistant professor and associate director of the Electric Power Systems Laboratory in Pitt’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, that helped Maurice earn a prestigious 2020-21 Scholarship Plus Award from IEEE’s Power and Energy Society. “Applying for the scholarship not only helps support my education, but it gives me the opportunity to further involve myself in PES,” he said. “I owe so much to my mentors,” Maurice noted. “One of my biggest inspirations has been seeing other people with similar backgrounds to my own succeed in engineering and other fields. Having a diverse group of people willing to share their advice and experience has helped me in several ways. The best way I can think to give back is to share what I learn and build genuine connections with other aspiring engineers.” An avid goal setter, Maurice is already planning for life after college. His plans include going on to get his master’s degree in electrical engineering before moving up through the ranks in industry. “My goal is to find opportunities where I can work to develop more intelligent and efficient electric power systems,” he said. “Ideally, I would like to increase the availability of, and access to, these systems so that they make an impact where they are needed most.” For now, however, Maurice is looking forward to continuing his educational journey at Pitt and taking advantage of all the opportunities that lie ahead – which include a summer internship at Ford Motor Company. “I’m taking a multifaceted approach to experience as many different areas of electrical engineering as I can,” he said. “At times, it’s easy to think of engineering as purely technical, but that’s not always true because much of what you do as an engineer will affect someone. As the world keeps changing, engineering will continue to improve lives by solving problems, and I want to help find those solutions.”

Feb
19
2021

Brandon Grainger Elected Scientific Advisor on EMerge Alliance Board

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 19, 2021) … Brandon Grainger, assistant professor and Eaton Faculty Fellow of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, was elected to the board of the EMerge Alliance and will serve as scientific advisor. Established in 2008, the EMerge Alliance works to promote the greater use of DC and hybrid AC/DC microgrids and power systems. The organization has a network of members across a variety of industries that influence the design, construction and management of facilities and properties. Grainger is associate director of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Electric Power Engineering Program and associate director of the Energy GRID Institute. His research interests are primarily focused on power electronic converter design with power ranges that accommodate aerospace to grid scale applications. His group studies circuit topology design, controllers, magnetics, and power semiconductor devices to ensure practical, high power dense solutions primarily for DC/DC and DC/AC converters. "I look forward to contributing my expertise in medium to high voltage power equipment to the mission of the EMerge alliance in bridging manufacturers and stakeholders in the electric power profession," he said. Grainger has contributed to more than 75 electric power engineering articles and is an annual reviewer of various power electronic conferences and transaction articles. He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers where he participates in the Power Electronics Society and Industrial Electronics Society at national levels. In 2019, he received the Engineer of the Year Award from the Engineering Society of Western Pennsylvania, which recognizes individuals who have significant technical and professional accomplishments which contribute to the engineering profession. # # #

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