Recent Honors for Prof. Lavaei’s Innovative Research in Networks

Jul 15 2014 | By Melanie A. Farmer | Photo: Ryan John Lee

Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Javad Lavaei has recently garnered a string of honors for his research in building an innovative, computational backbone to transform the power grid. In early spring, Lavaei won a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, the prestigious award given to exceptional junior faculty. And, ever since, additional awards and honors have followed.

Javad Lavaei

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has just selected Lavaei as a participant for its 20th Annual U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. Eighty-three of the nation’s young engineers, ages 30 to 45, who are performing exceptional engineering research and technical work in a variety of disciplines, were selected. Lavaei and his winning peers will gather Sept. 11 to 13 in Irvine, CA, to deliver talks on four distinct areas: next-generation robotics, frontiers of materials for batteries, shale gas and oil, and technologies for the heart.

Lavaei’s area of expertise is in upgrading today’s power grid into a smart grid that can maintain a reliable and secure electricity infrastructure to meet future demand growth. He works on two theoretical areas—optimization theory and control systems that play key roles in engineering.

He also has been selected as one of 24 recipients of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator award for his work in these areas. The ONR will be funding his proposal, “Graph-Theoretic Algorithm for Solving Polynomial Optimization with Applications to Energy Systems and Distributed Control Systems.”

Lavaei said the ONR funding will help him conduct “fundamental research with huge societal impacts.”

He explains, “Real-world optimization problems are often nonlinear and there is no efficient algorithm for solving them in general. My research aims to develop a graph-theoretic algorithm for general nonlinear optimization problems, which may be deployed for a variety of real-world problems such as cooperate control of multi-vehicles, distributed control and optimization for electrical power networks, logistics, and nonlinear system identification for the oceans and atmosphere.”

In addition, Lavaei received Caltech’s Resnick Institute's Resonate Award, an honor given to innovators in alternative energy, the environment, and sustainability. The Resonate Awards aim to spotlight individuals making strides in some of today’s grand challenges in achieving global sustainability. These include meeting the world’s energy needs sustainably, providing water and food for a growing world population, cleaning the environment, and improving people’s access to natural resources.

Lavaei, an affiliated member of Columbia’s Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering, joined the Engineering School faculty in 2012. As a Google Faculty Research Awardee, he is collaborating with the energy group at the Internet giant to design optimization algorithms for future electrical power networks.

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