Summer 2016

What drives you?

Building a smarter grid

Composite image of United States city lights, using data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite
Image courtesy of defense advanced research projects agency

Known as the father of the smart grid, Massoud Amin has devoted his career to building resilient electrical and technology infrastructures. Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and University Distinguished Teaching Professor, holds the Honeywell/H.W. Sweatt Chair in Technological Leadership and directs the Technological Leadership Institute.

What drives your passion for electrical infrastructure?

Our quality of life in Tabriz, Iran, was like Athens, with good homes, education, a hospital, a university. But if you drove 15 miles outside the city, the villages seemed like medieval Europe with no electricity, paved roads, gas, or a water supply. The life expectancy was in the 40s. I realized that underneath our health care and economy was infrastructure and access to electricity. With electricity you can improve quality of life and economic well-being. I decided early on that electrical power and automation bring opportunity and are critical to everything we do.

What do you research now?

I’m working on creating a smarter, more resilient, and more secure, sustainable infrastructure, not just for power grids, but for Internet communication and computer networks, transportation, and financial and economic systems. We want to make it more agile and efficient, harder for adversaries to penetrate, and easier for those who manage it.

What is the challenge?

The world’s supply of electricity needs to triple by 2050 to keep up with demand. We need to build a stronger and smarter electrical energy infrastructure that is self-healing. That means developing a system that uses information, sensing, control, and communication technologies to deal with unforeseen events and minimize their impact.

Watch Massoud Amin's TEDxUMN talk.