Regents Professor Ned Mohan awarded 2022 James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal
Regents Professor Ned Mohan was recently awarded the 2022 IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education medal for his contributions to engineering education. The medal is awarded to an individual for a career of outstanding contributions to education in the fields of interest of IEEE. The award citation reads: “For leadership in power engineering education by developing courses, textbooks, labs, and a faculty network.” It is a well deserved recognition of Mohan’s enduring commitment to education, which has undergirded his career as a teacher and researcher in the area of power engineering.
Besides the six textbooks that Mohan has written, he is also scheduled to complete three more books covering power systems and power electronics over the coming months. In addition, with the support of NSF funds, he has developed labs for courses on power electronics, power systems, electric machines/drives, and advanced electric drives using vector control. These labs are used in 109 universities in the United States. The impact of his 15 power courses and labs are profoundly felt within the country and abroad.
The creation of the online portal Consortium of Universities for Sustainable Power (CUSP) is another example of Mohan’s belief in the importance of sharing knowledge and making it widely accessible. With support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the portal carries a collection of 19 graduate level video courses, slide decks, sample problems, exams (with solutions), and files for conducting labs that he prepared in collaboration with a group of renowned experts in the field. Today CUSP comprises 450 faculty from 235 universities across the United States, and the contents on its online portal are accessible to students across the world. This is of particular significance to students in places where access to advanced knowledge can be difficult to come by. Additionally, the materials are designed so instructors can prepare themselves to teach these courses to students on their own.
Mohan also has a long history of consistently contributing to the strengthening and modernizing of power systems and power electronics education. In collaboration with other researcher-educators he has published several articles on power systems education in IEEE and ASEE publications, conferences and proceedings.
Mohan’s dedication to education, and the spread of knowledge has impacted not just the students he has taught in his various classes, but also academics and professionals who have carefully pored over his lectures and labs on CUSP, and his textbooks, regardless of where in the world they might be.
Over the last two decades, Mohan has organized 39 National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored workshops to disseminate educational materials he has developed at the University. Well-attended by faculty, these workshops are also attended by engineering deans and department heads. The latest workshop, held online, was titled, “Combating Climate Change: can it also help the ECE Renaissance?” The NSF has awarded him a grant to support these workshops for another three years. In 1981, Mohan helped establish the University of Minnesota Center for Electric Energy (UMCEE), one of the longest lasting centers at the University. Supported by six regional utilities, the center shares the latest developments in the electric power sector with the utilities. He has also offered internet based short courses free of charge for the IEEE Power Electronics Society, some of which had as many as 1600 attendees from across the world.
In recent years, as Mohan’s research focus has shifted to combating the climate change crisis, he has devoted his expertise to the integration of renewables into the grid, and sharing that knowledge through a course he designed titled, “Climate Crisis: Implementing Solutions.” As an introductory course with no prerequisites, it is open to students of all stripes, from freshmen to seniors, from those pursuing performing arts and humanities majors to those in STEM majors. Mohan has designed the course and prepares for it in ways that ensure that all students who take the course are successful. “Climate Crisis” is taught not only at the University and five local high schools, but is also being shared with other high schools to be suitably adapted.
Dedication to students
Mohan’s dedication to education does not end at designing and disseminating courses and labs. He is deeply invested in the success of his students. His teaching philosophy is based on mutual respect. Treating each student as an individual and his legacy, he is patient and works tirelessly to ensure that they gain the knowledge and have access to the tools for success. He regards the feedback he gets from students very seriously and takes them into account when he designs courses.
Having graduated 50 doctoral students (with more on the way) and mentored almost 150 master’s students, Mohan’s influence is global in nature. Several of his doctoral students are teaching at prestigious universities in the United States, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, and India. The others are working in leading companies such as Tesla, Apple, Texas Instruments, Siemens, Tata Motors and others in the United States and abroad.
Mohan’s students are carrying on his legacy wherever they are, in academia or industry. Many of them are in leadership positions themselves and others are earning accolades for their own brilliant work. In 2019, with Mohan’s support, one of his doctoral students established a University of Minnesota startup Sciamble. The company is engaged in providing affordable software and hardware for laboratories used for teaching and research in power electronics, power systems, and electric machines and drives. Till date, over one hundred kits have been acquired by universities worldwide. The labs were originally developed with the aid of an ONR grant, and Mohan has chosen not to have any financial interest in the company.
A brilliant researcher, Mohan has brought in over $20 million in research funding. A holder of over 20 patents, his work has been influential and impacted us all as researchers, corporations, and individuals. A few examples of his work include: current-shaping circuit in 1978, for supplying power from photovoltaic systems (a precursor to the current-shaping circuits in our current day laptops); active filters to supply ripple-free electricity (patented by the University in 1979) followed up by researchers around the world and commercialized; Minnesota Rectifier for charging fleets of electric vehicles and patented by the University in 1994; ultra-compact DC-DC converter for aircraft, funded by NASA and patented by the University in 2003; integration of renewable generation into the utility grid without a 60 Hertz transformer (2018). He has other patent applications that are filed and pending approval.
Awards and honors
Mohan is the recipient of several awards and honors that recognize his commitment to education. He was awarded the Horace T. Morse Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education in 2007, and the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education in 2014. Being recognized by both teaching awards is a rare distinction. Some of the other awards he has received are the IEEE-IAS Outstanding Educator/Mentor Award (2019), IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award (2010), and the IEEE-PES Outstanding Power Engineering Educator Award (2008). In addition, Mohan was made Regents Professor in 2019, elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2014 (“for contributions to integration of electronics into power systems and innovations in power engineering education”), and elevated to Fellow of the IEEE in 1996 (“for contributions to power electronics education and applications in power systems).
The basis for judging the nominees for the IEEE Education medal includes excellence in teaching and ability to inspire students, leadership in electrical engineering education and program/curriculum development, contributions to and research and engineering. Regents Professor Ned Mohan not only meets these and other criteria, but he has them in abundance as seen by his decades long commitment to education and research, and his enduring legacy as seen in his students.
The 2022 IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education medal will be presented at the IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit and Honors Ceremony that will be held on May 6, 2022 in San Diego, california. The award includes a gold medal, a bronze replica, a certificate, and a cash prize.
Regents Professor Ned Mohan earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1967 from the Indian Institute of Technology. He went on to earn his master’s degree in 1969 at the University of New Brunswick, Canada, and his doctoral degree in 1973 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the guidance of professor Harold A. Peterson. Along the way his interests led him to acquire a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1972 (also from UW- Madison). Mohan and his wife Mary have two adult children. They live in Saint Paul.