One to Watch: Sarah Aman, A Rising Industry Star
Sarah Aman lights up when she talks about her chosen profession of electrical engineering. A junior at South Dakota State University, Sarah has already been recognized as an Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) PES (Power & Energy Society) Plus Initiative Scholar recipient in both ’21-’22 and ’22-’23; completed two internships and lined up third; won best student poster at the annual 2022 IEEE PES General Meeting Conference; and is scheduled to present at the ’23 IEEE Rising Stars conference in January.
“IEEE PES has been a huge factor in helping me find my passion, my footing, and my degree program and I want to emphasis how important it is to me,” Sarah said. “When I received the PES scholarship and started an internship, it made me realize that I have a love for the power industry and that this is the area where I want to focus my career.”
Sarah’s love for engineering was encouraged by a high school teacher who started her school’s first AP class – which just happened to be computer science.
“She pushed me and got me into coding and programming,” she explained. “From there I knew I wanted to do something in computing and electronics and engineering was a natural progression.”
Born and raised in South Dakota, Sarah initially did not want to go to university in-state. Once she visited the campus – and specifically the laboratory spaces – however, all that changed.
“I call it my ‘big, small campus’ because it feels like a small town, but at the same time it’s a big state university, which means it has amazing resources and industry partners,” she said.
Sarah noted that it’s also a “big deal” to be a PES scholar at her university, so when she was told about the scholarship program by a faculty member, she took note.
“When I received the award I told my professor right away,” she said. “It’s a big honor and I was super excited.”
Receiving the scholarship also caused Sarah to seek out more information on the IEEE national conference, and in doing so she discovered that students could submit posters for consideration.
“Attending the conference was one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “Never in a million years did I think I’d be competitive, much less win. It was a huge surprise.”
According to Sarah, her project automated an important but time-consuming process related to load addition monitoring.
“In a nutshell, we’re experiencing a shortage in the engineering industry in that we can’t hire fast enough. That leaves less time for manual procedures. I created an automated screening process for large load additions,” she explained. One of the issues companies face is that every time they are approached to, for example, open an ethanol plant or factory of some kind, they must study that load addition individually and the process can take up to a week of an engineer’s time. By automating the process, this can now be done on demand. It’s actually in use now, which is really cool. I think it resonated because it was very applicable.”
When asked why engineering – and specifically power systems engineering –suits her so well, Sarah responded that it ticks off all the boxes. Not only is it a field where she can impact people’s lives on a day-to-day basis, but it’s also what she calls a very “ethical” industry – especially when it comes to environmental sustainability.
“It’s not that the other engineering fields aren’t important, they just weren’t where my ethics led me to go,” she said.
While still a junior, Sarah is focused on the future and hopes to find a position in industry – perhaps working in a national lab or consulting. In the meantime, she is looking forward to interning at Burns & McDonnel this summer, where she will be working in their new energy group on power generation and environmental concern initiatives.
“I love my degree and program but it’s tough and classes can be really challenging,” she said. “I find my internship experience to be really motivating. I get excited – I love the work I do and cannot wait to find a full-time job.”
Sarah will also make sure to find time for another initiative close to her heart – mentorship.
“I want to show other women that you’re allowed to be ambitious. I want to show them that you can attend the conferences, meet the people, and go for the big job,” she said. “I mentor a freshman through our IEEE on-campus program and have been helping her find an internship, which is rare as a freshman, but being ambitions about things is the best way of going about pursuing your career.”
She continued, “To me, PES is a network of people who will do everything in their power to help you succeed and it’s important for me to be able to give back in the same way.”