Liu named as a part of the Class of 2017 Siebel Scholars


Daniel Dexter, ECE ILLINOIS

Graduate student Hao Jan (Max) Liu has been named a Class of 2017 Siebel Scholar, an honor that recognizes exceptional graduate students around the world.

Hao Jan (Max) Liu
Hao Jan (Max) Liu

The Siebel Scholars program recognizes exceptional students at the world’s leading graduate schools of business, computer science, bioengineering, and energy science.

Liu said it was an honor to have his research recognized by his peers for the significance and impact it can have on society, especially in power and energy areas.

Liu’s work focuses on power system control using optimization techniques, particularly in practical applications of smart grid technologies. He proposes a shift in the way controls are implemented across the grid. Instead of traditional centralized control where communication signals being sent/received between devices and a master computer, Liu describes a system in which local control action can be determined through communication among neighboring devices to reach an optimal power system operating condition.

“It is much more efficient and much more robust because now the communication is only required between neighbor to neighbor. Accordingly, this decentralized control design would be more cost-effective in addition to robustness against communication imperfectness,” Liu said. “Usually the proximity to the neighbor is much smaller than the distance between the centralized master computer.”

Liu became interested in power and energy systems when he was an undergrad at Missouri University of Science & Technology. He said that among all the concepts he learned in school, power system analysis engaged him the most, and he enjoys analyzing how electricity flows through the grid.

However, energy systems are not his only passion in life; he is also a lifelong figure skater who has not only performed in shows but also coached some national and Olympics levels skaters. His talent afforded him the opportunity his junior year of undergrad to join Disney on Ice, which he participated in for six years and toured around the world before returning as a senior.

“It was a challenge to come back to undergrad after a gap of six years, especially as a senior,” Liu said. “I had forgotten a lot of what I learned in undergrad. Relearning all the material in order to graduate gave me the confidence to pursue graduate school.”

Since coming to Illinois, Liu has found the culture at ECE ILLINOIS to be a motivating factor in the pursuit of his research goals. He said that his master's and PhD advisors, Thomas J Overbye and Hao Zhu, have encouraged him to identify problems in the power field that need innovative solutions, which is what drew him to look at the smart grid.

“The environment in ECE gives me the sense that everyone loves what they do,” Liu said. “This motivates me to push harder and enjoy my work as well. There is a lot of freedom to explore what you want to research and having wonderful advisors makes these processes much easier.”