Klauber receives National Science Foundation fellowship


Claire Hettinger, ECE ILLINOIS

With the Power and Energy Conference at Illinois coming up on February 19-20, graduate student Cecilia Klauber reflected on her time spent organizing the conference, as well as success in her research. She recently received a National Science Foundation fellowship.

The conference, also called PECI, is sponsored by the joint student chapter of IEEE Power and Energy Society, IEEE Power Electronics Society, and the Industry Applications Society and is an international IEEE-approved conference. It’s one reason Klauber decided to come to ECE ILLINOIS for graduate school.

Klauber is a PES student chapter officer, which sponsors the conference. Working to connect students with the conference is full circle for her, because the student-run conference stuck out when she was considering graduate programs.

“It’s a unique thing we have here, because not a lot of schools allow their students to sponsor and run a conference,” she said. “It’s IEEE-approved and the papers go up on IEEE Xplore, so it’s a really big deal.”

Klauber is known as a well-rounded graduate student, both in her extracurricular service and her research. This is why, Assistant Professor Hao Zhu, her adviser, said Klauber is so inspiring.

The National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship Klauber received is different than some. It funds three years and can be used over a five-year period. Klauber said it's useful because it is so flexible.

Another important aspect of the fellowship is that the researcher can choose her research topic. The NSF does not dictate the research it funds the researcher not the topic. The organization selects applicants whose research area is feasible with the resources available to the researcher.

In the coming years the distribution network will be experiencing many changes. Klauber is focusing on these shifts and trying to find alternative methods to monitor the state of the network. With the increase of smart meters, electric vehicles, and residential solar power, Klauber said it is important to consider how the industry analyzes, optimizes the control of distribution networks.

One application she is focusing on is the state estimation problem. The current method may produce undesirable solutions because of convergence issues, which can cause problems with measuring system life and making decisions on power grids. But Klauber’s research work can overcome this challenge by introducing advanced optimization algorithms for this problem.

The research produces resilient and reliable systems that will work in even tactical environment, which is why this research is important, Zhu said. It can be used to run low-cost systems that are both reliable and useful for energy delivery.

This research has a good chance of seeing the light of day because of Klauber’s focus on distribution networks, where there will be many changes in the coming years.

“Cecilia did a great job emphasizing the impact of her work, which was made her stand out,” Zhu said. “She’s really an excellent grad student and she is doing the best possible work.”

Excited about the potential applicability of her research in tactical military microgrids, the DoD NDSEG Fellowship Committee has also selected Ceci as a receipt. Ceci chose the NSF fellowship eventually because of the associated outreach programs (GROW).

In October, Klauber received second place in the SWE Collegiate Technical Poster Competition for her research in distribution system monitoring at the National Society of Women Engineers conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

Along with her research grant Klauber is involved with many other activities in ECE.

Klauber devotes her free time to the PES chapter, which sponsors weekly seminars and connects with students at the regional level, and GradSWE, where she is the undergrad liaison. She sponsors monthly coffee chats and give advice on grad schools and grad applications.

“It is good to be in a group of grad students,” she said. “I recommend that, just because we often have the same doubts, fears, struggles, and complaints, so it’s nice to meet with people and share that and support each other through it.”

Klauber also works with PURE, promoting undergraduates in research and engineering, where she mentored two sophomores and they participate in her research to gain a better understanding of what it is like to do research and to attend graduate school and have experience researching.

“Being a grad student is hard and it is demanding. These extracurricular activities while they take time, are really life giving to me, I find a lot of joy and fulfillment in them,” Klauber said. “As busy as they might make me, I think I’d be a worse off grad student without them.”