New center brings U-EPIC research power to energy transition – @theU



In a world in transition away from fossil fuels, the need for reliable and affordable renewable energy is clear. But the energy transition involves much more than just the technology needed to deliver clean energy. How will students prepare for a still-concentrated workforce and industry? How can the clean energy business equitably support economic development and prosperity for all community members?community ?

To answer these questions, the University of Utah launched the new Utah Energy & Power Innovation Center (U-EPIC), an interdisciplinary research center. With a team of engineers, social scientists, climatologists and computer scientists, U-EPIC’s mission is “to innovate for the future of equitable, sustainable and resilient power and energy infrastructure”. .

Learn more about the center here.

Solving the great challenges of our time

Ensuring clean, equitable and affordable energy is one of the greatest challenges of our time, says Masood Parvania, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of U-EPIC.

“We have a unique and unprecedented opportunity to shape the transition of the energy industry to use clean, sustainable and distributed energy sources, while ensuring that the benefits of this transition, including the quality of air, economic development, employment opportunity and access to clean energy are equitably distributed within society,” he says. “No one or community should be left behind in this transition.

Achieving these goals requires interdisciplinary research, such as improving the resilience of energy infrastructure to more frequent wildfires and hurricanes. U-EPIC researchers focus on four research themes:

Learn more about U-EPIC research programs here.

Benefiting from preparing students for the labor market

Through a collaboration between U-EPIC and the Energy and Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah, students will be able to earn a Resilient Energy Certificate designed to “meet the local labor needs of the changing energy landscape, meeting the growing demand for skilled energy workers”.

To train students, “U-EPIC provides resources and facilities such as the Resilience test bed for cyber-physical systemswhich simulates the operation of an electrical system in real time and facilitates training on network control strategies, simulation of system failure and cyber-attack scenarios, and research on artificial intelligence and algorithms based on the machine learning for network management,” explains Jairo Giraldo. , Deputy Director of Education and Facilities at U-EPIC.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are core values ​​of U-EPIC, whose workforce development program focuses on training opportunities for disadvantaged, rural and remote communities.

“We hope our multidisciplinary center will become a place where students, faculty and researchers can learn about energy, infrastructure and innovation issues,” says Tabitha Benney, Associate Director of the U- EPIC for Infrastructure Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,” but also where they can learn how to integrate EDI into their research or learn more about translational, convergent, or community-engaged research designs. We want to encourage anyone interested in these topics to consider joining our community. There are a ton of existing resources in this area on our campus. We want to connect others to these resources, but we can also offer feedback on grants and research, as well as mentoring, training and other programs.

The Partnership for Workforce Training in the Energy Sector works with industry and university stakeholders to design student experiences that will shape the next generation of energy workforces, including student projects, seminars and exhibits on careers.

“Through community engagement and involving local stakeholders in curriculum development, we ensure students can make a meaningful contribution to the energy workforce ecosystem,” says U-EPIC Workforce Development Manager Alba González.

Learn more about U-EPIC’s workforce development initiatives here.

Impact on Utah Communities

U-EPIC’s training programs benefit the energy workforce, but more specifically the local energy workforce, reducing competition for energy workers and upgrading the skills of current employees to protect against job loss in the energy transition. These programs, explains Parvania, are developed in cooperation with local energy, climate and resilience actors.

“We work with industry, government agencies and community stakeholders to understand and meet their energy needs,” says Divya Chandrasekhar, Associate Director of Social Sciences and Community Engagement at U-EPIC. “Then we collaborate and develop research solutions while building trust and creating lasting relationships. The result is energy resilient communities that have access to clean, equitable and affordable energy.

For example, U-EPIC is involved in a planning study to lay the groundwork for future artificial intelligence-based virtual disaster training tools. Funded through the National Science Foundation’s Smart & Connected Communities program, the study will not only integrate scientific knowledge about disaster responses from multiple scientific disciplines, but will specifically engage the social sciences to correct any biases or inequities that arise. with regard to socio-economically vulnerable communities. The study is a collaboration between U-EPIC and local nonprofit planning organization Envision Utah.

Learn more about U-EPIC’s Stakeholder Engagement Model here.

Advance U leadership in energy technology

U-EPIC professors are internationally recognized for their research on infrastructure resilience, infrastructure cybersecurity, and energy justice and equity. The management of U-EPIC crew understand :


Member of the U-EPIC leadership team during the center’s launch event on October 4, 2022. Left to right: Chandrasekhar, Benney, Parvania, Giraldo, González, and Zhang.

  • Massoud Parvaniadirector of U-EPIC, who is also a Presidential Scholar Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
  • Tabitha Benney, Associate Director for Infrastructure Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Benney is also an associate professor in the Department of Political Science.
  • Divya Chandrasekhar, Associate Director for Social Science Research and Stakeholder Engagement. Chandrasekhar is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban and Metropolitan Planning.
  • Jairo Giraldo, Deputy Director of Education and Facilities. Giraldo is also an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
  • Alba González Hernando, Workforce Development Manager.
  • John Horel, Head of Climate and Atmospheric Science Research. Horel is also chairman of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.
  • Mu Zhang, head of critical infrastructure cybersecurity research. Zhang is also an assistant professor at the School of Computer Science.
  • Carlos Oroza, Head of Interdependent Critical Infrastructure Research. Oroza is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

“U-EPIC will enable collaboration between interdisciplinary sets of faculties,” Parvania says, “and provide additional visibility for the cutting-edge energy and energy research taking place at the U.”

U-EPIC at the University of Utah invites all universities, industry, government agencies, and communities to join the dialogue to “innovate the future of equitable, sustainable, and resilient”.

Learn more about U-EPIC values ​​here.

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