Kavin Muhil Ramesh receives 2023-24 IEEE PES scholarship

Undergraduate student Kavin Muhil Ramesh is a 2023-24 recipient of the IEEE PES scholarship. The PES Scholarship Plus Initiative provides scholarships and real world experience to promising undergraduate students interested in power and energy engineering careers. The scholars major in electrical engineering, are high achievers with strong GPAs, distinctive extracurricular commitments, and are committed to exploring the power and energy field. Ramesh is in his senior year pursuing his bachelor’s degree with a particular focus on power systems and renewable energy systems.

A resident of the Twin Cities for most of his life, pursuing his college education at the University of Minnesota was an easy decision for him. The wide array of degree programs offered and proximity to home were key factors that influenced his decision to come here. In a recent interview, Ramesh shared the factors that influenced his decision to choose electrical engineering as his major, his areas of interest within the major, and the people and experiences that have been particularly supportive of and formative in his academic journey.

What influenced your choice of college and major?
My family has a pad-mounted transformer in our backyard. As a child, all I knew was that square metal box was where the electricity in our house came from. But I was always curious as to how the transformer and the power grid worked. In high school I enjoyed math and physics, so the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) and engineering were my priority choices for college and major. I was also involved in my school’s robotics club and enjoyed learning the basics of electronics and programming.

When I entered CSE as a freshman, I was undecided on what specific major I wanted to pursue. However, the CSE 1001 class helped me realize that I wanted a major that offered many different career paths, one that was also connected to other disciplines. Electrical engineering was one of those majors. My parents also played an important role in my major exploration. They were instrumental in showing me that electrical engineering has a variety of applications, and I could have many career paths to choose from. This was important to me as I was still undecided on what I specifically wanted to do on the work front. My experience in the class, my own interest in the power grid, my robotics and programming experience, and guidance from my parents were all important factors in my decision to pursue electrical engineering as my major. 

What are your areas of interest in electrical engineering? How did they come about?

Slide in UMN colors of maroon and gold explaining why birds don't die when they sit on power lines

My main area of interest is power and energy. When I took the course EE 2015 with Professor David Orser in fall 2021 (my first electrical engineering class), we worked on a problem that addressed why birds do not die when they sit on power lines. That was something I had wondered for a while. I enjoyed learning the science behind that, further strengthening my interest in the power grid. EE 2015 went well for me, and I enjoyed learning from Professor Orser. I declared electrical engineering as my major shortly after that class. I decided to explore the power and energy sector further during my sophomore year. I found it very fascinating; the more I learned, the more I wanted to keep learning, and I decided to explore the field further through an internship. 

What are some undergraduate experiences that have excited you the most within ECE or at the University? 
Professor Paul Imbertson, who has been a great professor and advisor to me, took our power electronics class to UMN Morris in December 2023. We toured their various energy facilities like the wind turbine that powers their hydrogen and ammonia production facility. That experience helped me understand how the University of Minnesota is leading an effort to integrate renewables into our grid in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.

What are some experiences you have particularly enjoyed that you hope to draw on in your career as an engineer? 
During my internship at Burns & McDonnell, I learned about the push for more data centers and substations in Virginia to handle all the internet traffic traveling to and from the USA as our world begins to integrate artificial intelligence into everyday life. I learned about the opportunities that exist in the power and energy sector and how it is projected to grow and change in the coming decades as utilities and governments transition to renewable energy.

As an intern with Xcel Energy, I contributed to design plans to fix distribution service in my own neighborhood which I will never forget. I showed my younger brother the linemen replacing a transformer in our neighborhood and explained to him what they were doing in detail; that was a great moment for me as an older brother.

I also visited the Niagara Parks Power Station in Canada where I saw how the power grid first started and how hydroelectric power is really generated. There was a lot of fascinating power grid history for me to see.

I have been able to help others learn the details of the power grid and how it functions because of what I learned in my internships and site visits. For me, it is important to share with others (especially those who are not electrical engineers by education) how power gets to our houses because it is something that everyone needs and uses daily. 

What influenced you to apply for the IEEE PES scholarship? 
Kimberly Scott, our advisor, publishes scholarships in the ECE Current, a weekly newsletter for the department. She included the PES Scholarship announcement there; Burns & McDonnell also brought up this scholarship during my internship there. I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to demonstrate my commitment to the power and energy field, so I applied.

I thank everyone who has helped me grow professionally, academically, and personally. My mentors, professional connections, professors, advisors, parents, friends, and faith in Jesus have all helped me find a good home in the power and energy field. 

What are your plans for the future?
My future plans are to go to graduate school. I am in the Integrated MSECE program, and I plan on pursuing my masters degree immediately after graduating with my bachelors degree this May. In the meantime, I have an internship lined up for the summer at Ulteig, an engineering firm that is in the power and energy field.

We wish Kavin Muhil Ramesh the very best in his future endeavors.

To learn more about the PES scholarship, visit the IEEE PES website.