Researcher of the Month
Major: Electrical Engineering
Research Mentor: Dr. Fang Luo, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
At the 2023 Summer Symposium in the Union Ballroom on August 4th, 90 undergraduates will convene to present research posters detailing the projects they have been working on over the past 10 weeks: this URECA-CIE hosted event will feature participants from 4 NSF-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) programs, as well as BioPREP, Explorations in STEM, INDUCER, the Velay Fellowship for Women in Science, and the new SUNY-SOAR program.
Among the presenters will be Josephine Elumeze, an Electrical Engineering major (class of 2025) who is member of CSTEP and LSAMP. Although relatively new to the research group of Dr. Fang Luo (Electrical & Computer Engineering), she already plans to continue her research during the next academic year to further her interest in power electronics applications in power systems. Josephine’s participation in research over this summer was supported through the PSEG-and AmFam-funded Explorations in STEM program co-administered by URECA and Career Center (PI: Dr. Monica Bugallo).
Reflecting on her research interests and goals, Josephine admits that her connection
to her research topic is personal: “While growing up, I was affected by power instability and the related impacts on
Nigeria’s environment caused by the excessive use of generators. So, I have had a
long personal interest in the use of clean energy such as solar and wind energy systems
for household power production. The reason for my focus on the field of electrical
engineering is that I intend to combine my experiences to identify the best renewable
energy solutions for developing societies and use my engineering skills to facilitate
their efficient operation. In particular, I would like to investigate and design efficient
renewable power systems in places that could benefit from them, including my homeland
of Lagos, Nigeria.”
On campus, Josephine has been active as a member of Color Stack, the Stony Brook Gospel Choir, and Stony Brook BASIC. She is also excited to be taking part in the Career Center DPLN program where she will be paired with a professional mentor in National Grid. Prior to coming to Stony Brook in fall 2022, Josephine completed an Associate degree in Electrical Engineering at LaGuardia Community College where she was a member of the CUNY Research Scholars Program in 2020-21, and won a “best presentation award” for her project on characterizing aerosol in the atmosphere to investigate patterns leading to the June 2020 dust plume over the Gulf and Caribbean. In Summer 2022, Josephine gained valuable experience in computing models that help predict atmospheric occurrences through an internship at the Cooperative Institute for Modeling Earth Systems (a collaboration of Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/NOAA) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab.) Long term, Josephine plans to pursue graduate studies (PhD) in electrical engineering. Below are excerpts of her interview with Karen Kernan, URECA Director.
Karen: How long have you been working on your research project?
Josephine: Actually, I just started this summer. I had been looking up professors in the ECE Department, and planning to pursue my research interests in power and energy systems, which is my specialization in electrical engineering. And then I happened to meet Dr. Fang Luo at an event organized by CSTEP. So from there we made the connection.
What is your project about?
Dr. Luo runs the Spellman High Voltage Power Electronic Laboratory in the Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering. He specializes in power electronics – working on high power density converter design, high-density EMI filter design and integration, and other topics in power electronics systems. My specific project aims to provide low to moderate-income communities with affordable access to solar energy, and focuses on advanced solar power converter design … Right now, what I'm doing is actually learning the roots of power electronics as well as how it relates to a solar system. I’ve been researching power electronic devices used to enhance the efficiency of solar systems, such as the maximum Powerpoint tracking controller.
Tell me about your lab environment. Are there a lot of students?
I'm the only undergrad currently. All of the other people that I interact with in the group, apart from Prof. Luo, are PhD students. And working with them has been truly amazing. They're extremely helpful and knowledgeable. I like the fact that I can approach them, and they are willing to break down their project and explain it to me, and are willing to include me in their weekly meetings. If I just want to talk to someone about a paper I read, or have a question about something I just recently learned, they're always available to talk with me. I also liked that my mentor was receptive to letting me bring my ideas to the table in designing a project for this summer: even though the lab focuses on high-tech, high demand power supplies, I was able to work on something related to household solar systems which is one of my main interests.
How has being involved in research complemented the coursework that you've done as an electrical engineering major?
I think it's one thing to sit in a class and learn the material. But being in a lab-- even when you are getting guidance or instructions on what to do-- lets you put into practice what you are learning. You get to apply what you learn: You directly see “Oh. Instead of using a capacitor here, I use can an inductor and resistor over here.” And you learn from doing that.
What do you enjoy most about being involved with research?
I think I enjoy the discussions the most. Once I have read a paper, I'm able to talk with people more knowledgeable than I am in my field, get their perspective, and correct any misperceptions that I may have. I like just interacting with the other grad students and hearing about their own projects, and how they face difficulties or challenges in their work.
There was a time recently when one of the PhD students was working on a device and she encountered a problem, and I offered to assist. Did I solve the problem? No… It basically had to be set up all over again. … But just being part of that project, learning how to handle a problem and work through it, that was an amazing experience. That’s actually one of the highlights of my experiences doing research so far.
What advice would you give to other students about research?
Don't be shy. You have to contact faculty who are doing research that interests you. So don’t be held back because you think you don’t know enough, or have to read hundreds of papers first before you can even contact them…Send an email and introduce yourself, and state your interests. Also, be patient with yourself. Once you do get involved, you have to learn how to deal with failure, or the stress of meeting deadlines. I think it’s important to give yourself the time to read and become knowledgeable, and learn what you need to be able to build up your skills over time. I would also recommend to get involved in research early, because in the long run it's very helpful in your classes.
When did you first become interested in electrical engineering?
I always loved devices and computers, even when I was small. I would sometimes try to get the computer running, or enjoy trying to fix devices that weren’t working …because my parents were not tech savvy. And then fast forward to middle to high school, I just liked the electrical part of the sciences. I was good at math. I even got involved in a competition that basically encourages girls to solve societal problems by creating a mobile application. So I was the lead “software engineer.” And that led to my interest down the road in thinking about majoring in either computer engineering, computer science or electrical engineering.
I could sit and code for a really long time, and not budge… but I also enjoyed doing something with my hands, building something. So I thought electrical engineering would be something that combined a lot of my interests. That’s probably a big part of why I like research as well. If I’m interested in finding out about a certain thing, I get to work on a problem, and say: “Okay, this is what I want to work on and actually pursue that hands on. “
Has it been useful for you to participate in a program and do research over the summer?
I think it's actually quite beneficial to do research during the summer. The summer is a time where you can really focus, and you can get as much done as possible. I have more time to read more papers, and I can stay in the lab as long as I want….and also, you're getting paid for it.
Are you looking forward to the upcoming semester?
Honestly I can't wait for the fall! I want to continue working in the lab, because there are some exciting projects that are coming up. And I will be taking Dr. Luo’s class next semester in power electronics. So there’s that!