How many PES Scholars have you had at Northeastern?
Northeastern is one of the schools with the highest number of PES scholars. In the past year we have had six scholars, and we’ve had similar numbers in the years before that. I attribute those high numbers to the advertising of the program throughout our school. I have always tried to publicize the scholarship through the College of Engineering. We make a point to announce the scholarship in freshman classes and various other engineering courses, so there is a wide audience of those who may not have otherwise known about the scholarship. This gets students well informed of the program and excited to be involved in it.
Do many of the scholars graduate with job offers?
Yes. Currently, several of the scholars who are graduating this semester are coming out of school with job offers. I offered a research assistantship to one scholar from this year, but he let me know that he had already received a job offer post-graduation. We also have two other scholars who are graduating at the end of May and will be accepting positions at two separate companies.
How are you preparing the scholars for a career in the industry?
Students are interested in the industry and engineering in general, but once they get the scholarship, they feel even more motivated to talk to me about what’s happening in the industry of power engineering and how they can get involved. I try to engage them in any way I can. I like to give them part-time work study jobs in my research lab. This allows them to work on undergraduate research projects, or gives them volunteer experience in the lab along with the graduate students. That experience improves their knowledge and background about what power is, what engineers do, and what opportunities exist when they graduate. Northeastern has a co-op program where a majority of our students work for about six months at a time, three times, before they graduate. These are formal co-op placements with companies that provide them with real industry experience before they graduate.
What makes PES S+ different than other scholarships?
Industry-specific scholarships, like the PES Scholarship Plus Initiative, allow for the scholars to be more focused in their field than less specialized programs. The scholars in our program have told me that the scholarship’s requirement of professional experience motivated them further in their career. It may have pushed them to go for two or three co-ops in the power industry instead of one. In that way, the students are getting more exposure to the power industry than if they did not receive the scholarship, because they wouldn’t have been motivated to seek out those internships in the power industry.
Almost all of the scholars I’ve spoken to feel that this program has helped them, and think there is a need to continue the program. This is a good program because of the financial support it provides. But in addition, if students did not receive the scholarship, they would not have the career resources it gives them access to.
What are your hopes for the program and their plans for addressing future needs of the industry?
The next generation of engineers, the ones that we are teaching now, has an interest in renewable and clean energy. Their main motivation is how we’re going to make the future cleaner and safer. Through their experience with the activities in the PES Scholarship, these future engineers realize there is a lot of technical work to be done and that it’s exciting, high tech work. They already have the motivation to do this work, but the scholarship gives them a more solid sense of what needs to be done. With that knowledge they become more serious about getting involved in the power industry.
Overall, I really appreciate the fact that IEEE PES created and supports this program, not only because it’s helping the future of the industry, but also because it’s helping our own engineering program on campus. We are able to set up local chapters on our campus, gather students, and organize talks and social activities. Being involved in this scholarship program facilitates all of this. For those reasons, this scholarship has had a very positive impact here at Northeastern.
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University
Grainger Chair in Electrical Engineering