Meet Our Alumni
The Master of Engineering in Energy Systems program is helping students realize their dreams of starting careers in the energy field.
“The Energy Systems program at the University of Illinois allowed me to continue my education in a field I am passionate about – renewable energy – while learning a specific skill set to be a successful electrical engineer in the renewable energy sector. During the program I was able to take electrical engineering courses in power systems and supplement these courses with a variety of renewable energy classes as well. Additionally, I worked on a solar energy project to provide electricity to a community in western Africa.
Currently, I am in the Edison Engineering Development Program at General Electric, Energy Connections in Salem, Virginia. At this location, we build and test converters for wind turbines, solar, and battery storage. For my first rotation, I am currently working as a test and validation engineer for the converters, where I ensure software and hardware work together before entering the field. In the future, I will also have the opportunity to write software for the controllers of the turbines and card design for the switches in the converters.”
– Cassie Arenz, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Spring 2016)
Under the supervision of Professors Pete Sauer and Alejandro Dominguez-Garcia, Oscar Azofeifa works with a laboratory for distributed control of emulated AC microgrids. Different distributed approaches are being tested so microgrids can provide ancillary services to the bulk power grid. When asked how his Energy Systems degree helps him in his current position, Oscar shared, “It provided me of knowledge necessary to understand the dynamics of power systems and the more complex analysis of them, once more distributed energy resources are integrated. It also provided me [with] a broader understanding of electrical energy markets – where technological, economic and social variables are considered in order to meet environmental and technical standards.” Learn more about Oscar in this feature alumni profile.
– Oscar Azofeifa, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Spring 2018)
“The Energy Systems program stays true to its objective of providing students with holistic insight to the entire picture in regards to the energy challenge, and the skills and knowledge to proffering solutions to different aspects of it. The Energy Systems graduate degree program is very flexible, in a good way! It allows students to pick the courses and educational paths that align with their interests and background, all within a framework of course.
Everyone at the program is really helpful and will work with you to achieve your goals – educational, career and otherwise. Professors help guide your course choices and are an amazing resource to everything educational (projects, network with other professors, courses, career advancement). Amy (McCullough, the program coordinator) is an amazing person and resource. Get to know her! You’ll need it!
I work with TRC Solutions, an Engineering, Procurement and Construction firm in the Power Delivery Engineering division. Specifically, I work with the Field Services department as a Commissioning Engineer. In my role, I work on Greenfield or Brownfield substation sites, upgrading existing stations or installing new stations from the ground up. It’s very exciting work in an organization that is ‘committed to solving the challenges of making the Earth a better place to live – community by community and project by project.'”
– Anthony Ekeopara, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Fall 2016)
“I had a great time in the Energy Systems Degree program. The program armed me with the technical toolkits to tackle pressing and often complex energy problems that confronts our world. Beyond that, the people that helmed the affairs of the program made my experience even fulfilling – many thanks to Amy McCullough who was always there to help. My colleagues in the program were equally passionate about their chosen paths and the collaborative environment in which we learned further enriched my experience. I’m now pursuing my MBA degree at Yale School of Management. My degree in Energy Systems played a pivotal role in securing me a place in my MBA program. Furthermore, the knowledge that I acquired through the degree gave me the opportunity to bring unique perspectives to energy discourse at Yale.”
Emmanuel advises future students, “Future students should get involved with energy and sustainability efforts on campus. There are many groups that work passionately and unrelentingly in this area – Sustainability Working Advisory Teams (SWATeams) , Student Sustainability Committee (SSC), Student Sustainability Leadership Council (SSLC), etc. I served as Co-Chair for the Energy Working Group of the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC). This gave me the privilege to be one of twelve members that allocated 1.2 million USD student sustainability funds on sustainability related projects on campus. Working in this capacity helped me to apply the knowledge I acquired in the classrooms on real life problems right on campus. The role also helped me to hone my leadership, analytical, critical thinking and communication skills. Therefore, I highly recommend that future students should take the opportunity to make a meaningful impacts on campus and further develop invaluable leadership skills.”
What is Emmanuel’s favorite place in Champaign-Urbana? “Downtown Champaign!”
– Emmanuel Fadahunsi, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Spring 2019)
“I aspire to work towards a carbon-neutral future by incorporating solar, wind and other renewable technologies. I strongly believe smart sensors, machine learning and automation will improve the energy efficiency standard of existing and new buildings.
In my experience, there are misconceptions among people regarding energy production from solar photovoltaic panels. In order to solve this problem, I conceptualized, designed and programmed an iOS mobile app called ‘solarPV’. This app enables the user to estimate energy production from a hypothetical grid-tied system in the United States. It further estimates the energy savings from the produced clean energy according to current utility prices for your location. More information is available on my website: https://www.hurshhazari.com/solarpv/”
– Hursh Hazari, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Fall 2016)
“The Energy Systems program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provided me with a diverse yet proficient understanding in building energy systems and utilizing renewable energy. I was able to gain practical experience by auditing university buildings’ energy use and conducting performance analysis of solar panels recently installed at the University of Illinois. I also was a part of the Illinois Solar Decathlon team and Illinois Bio-fuels Initiative while on campus, which was a very good learning experience.
Currently I am working as an energy engineer-analyst at Graphet Inc., where I perform energy audits for large-scale industrial and commercial facilities. It includes detailed analysis of various systems such as chilled water, steam, data center power and cooling, HVAC, and production and design system-specific energy conservation opportunities.”
– Harshil Joshi, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Fall 2016)
“If there is one skill that I am most grateful to have acquired through the MEng in Energy Systems program, it is the ability to see energy efficiency from a fundamentally different perspective. The problem that most international students – including me – face is to have a narrow perspective on what energy efficiency means. I give full credit to this course for teaching me how to think about solving problems by using a combination of solutions. From thinking whether solar can solve all energy problems of the world, I started asking if efficient public transportation can solve the problem of carbon emissions in densely populated cities. From trying to calculate the capacity of wind power needed to sustain a town on its own, I started asking if relying on wind power alone is in fact a good solution (which I later realized is not). The quality of questions that I have asked has changed. The questions became more “real world”.
The real value of this course comes from experimenting with the courses that can be taken. This is the single biggest advantage that a professional degree has over an MS degree – which is more restrictive in terms of the courses that you can take. I studied about bio-energy, sustainable materials, nano-technology, green buildings, photovoltaic technology, and wind energy with a final project topic related to propulsion systems for spacecraft. I have finally found my interest to be sustainability in the built environment.
I am currently working for Performance Systems Development as an Energy Code Specialist. At present I am working on developing training programs for Building Code Officials in Pennsylvania. These training programs deal with helping code officials understand the importance of provisions in the International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE 90.1 and how to make buildings more efficient. I have the most fun on days when I go on field visits to measure how good/bad buildings are using blower door testing and duct leakage testing. Getting to learn in the office and on the field is something unique and exciting about the job I do.”
– Rakesh Koti, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Fall 2016)
“The Energy Systems program provided the flexibility and rigor for me to explore my interest in entrepreneurship and renewable energy. In completing the program, I was able to further my understanding of solar energy – from the very basics of knowing the science in building a solar cell, to justifying the economic advantages of photovoltaic arrays. To fulfill the requirements of my primary specialization area in Energy Markets, I opted for a more quantitative set of classes in resource econometrics modeling – my favorite topic being programming for applied economics. I graduated with a more well-rounded understanding of the industry than I had initially anticipated due the wide scope of courses offered through the program. What I liked most about the professional graduate program was the opportunity to interact with students from different parts of the world, all with varying professional experiences but share a similar passion in sustainability and renewable energy.”
Arjun works as a Development Engineer for Sun Tribe Solar in Charlottesville, Virginia. How does his degree in Energy Systems help Arjun in his current position? “The courses from the program supplied enough introductory and theoretical knowledge on the basics of solar project development. Much of the work of a Development Engineer is a further extension of these courses – more practical as budgets, policies and regulations become key factors in designing and implementing a project.”
Arjun advises future students, “Take courses that you think will be relevant to your career, but don’t forget to branch out and learn about new fields/topics. Reach out to industry professionals (program alumni included), engage and network to learn about the work they do.”
What is Arjun’s favorite place in Champaign-Urbana? “Maize for food, and the Quad for a place to just sit, read and relax.”
– Arjun Kumar, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Fall 2018)
“The Energy System program offered me a multi-disciplinary and industry-oriented track to pursue my passion for renewable energy and sustainability. The professional development requirement gave me a chance to work in the industry and gain valuable experience. I focused on solar energy and green buildings, with a hint of energy economics as well. I was exposed to engineering and economic concepts of solar energy systems, energy storage and energy economics, as well as sufficient knowledge of other renewable energy systems. This gave me an in depth understanding of the various technologies and how they can be deployed in the real world.” Ranjith advises future students, “The renewable energy industry is booming, but it is a very niche market. Pick your specialization and interest in the field of renewable energy and apply yourself in real world situations and work towards that goal. The world needs thinkers like us to transition to a clean energy future!”
Ranjith recently started work at EDF Renewable Energy as an Energy Storage Engineer in San Diego.
– Ranjith Mahalikudi, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Fall 2018)
“The energy systems program was the perfect segue from the world of academia into industry for me. The flexible coursework gave me opportunities to learn from multiple departments and this helped me build a specialization exactly in the field I wanted to work in and was passionate about. I was passionate about energy efficiency and wanted to land a job in that sector itself and tailored my courses to match the same. My current job deals with energy efficiency and energy auditing which is very close to what I had studied in the program.”
Saarthak currently works for CHA consulting in Albany, New York as a mechanical energy engineer. Saarthak advises future students, “Try to make the most of the flexibility this program offers. Attending conferences and networking events is definitely useful during the job search.”
– Saarthak Narsipur, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Fall 2018)
“The Master of Engineering in Energy Systems program was a great extension to my undergraduate experience at the University of Illinois. I was able to supplement my experience of supporting renewable energy through student activism with an in-depth, technical and economic curriculum on the field’s most important topics.
My work with the Sierra Club in Texas puts me in the room with legislators and utility CEOs to encourage aggressive transition to renewable energy production. I work with students, volunteers, and high-level decision makers across the state to expand the Texas energy grid’s proportion of wind, solar, and energy storage technology.”
– Drew O’Bryan, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Spring 2016)
“The Energy Systems program at the University of Illinois helped me gain a holistic insight of the Energy industry along with allowing me to acquire the specific skill set to be a successful electrical engineer in the renewable energy sector. I have learned some great skills and have been really inspired by the professors and students I have taken courses with. [Program Advisors] Professor Uddin and Amy [McCullough] are very helpful and they guide you through the entire program.
I’m currently working as a Research Associate in the Electricity & Fuels Division at The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), New Delhi. My coursework provided an interdisciplinary understanding of the contemporary need for energy solutions, and a holistic approach to explore the recent as well as on-going research related to energy and sustainability in various fields, from across disciplines. The valuable research and development experiences have endowed me with strong analytical and practical capabilities in the areas of Power & Energy Systems. I am able to apply the same skills and experience to my work which mainly involves research in order to provide solutions to the Power and Energy sector in India.”
– Rashi Singh, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Summer 2017)
“I really enjoyed all of the courses that I was required to take in this program, as well as the flexibility to take other courses which fulfilled my primary and secondary fields. Each of these courses within the degree could be connected in various ways, so all of my gained knowledge has been extremely useful. I currently work at Gas Technology Institute as an Emerging Technology Mechanical Engineer. This position gives me the ability to continually research the newest high efficiency technology in the energy industry and to see real world results. My degree helps me to understand what makes technology efficient from an environmental, economical, and engineering standpoint. Since I now have an understanding of both the science regarding the technology, and the various tradeoffs due to the economics, I can better understand what technology is suitable for each need.”
Jason advises future students, “Take as many classes that are interesting to you, and you will find a way that it will help foster your overall knowledge in your fields.”
What is Jason’s favorite place in Champaign-Urbana? “There’s too much to choose from, but I have always enjoyed walking around near the main quad and engineering quad.”
– Jason Stein, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Spring 2019)
“The program offered me a great deal of freedom yet direction towards letting me choose a tailored career path that would compliment my interests. I found a great mentor in Professor Uddin and many of the other professors I encountered throughout my journey in the Energy Systems program. I currently work at Integral Group Inc. as a Building Energy and Performance Analyst. I do a fair amount of building energy monitoring and analysis in addition to energy audits. The MEng degree offered a fundamental knowledge base on the different existing systems of energy. More than anything, I learned how to apply creative thinking and versatile knowledge with respect to a focused goal.” Sengavi advises future students, “Take your time in the first semester to try different courses before deciding upon the primary and secondary fields. It is also good to focus in on the primary field in the second and third semester. Trying different internship roles also helps in the process of finding more about your interests.”
What is Sengavi’s favorite place in Champaign-Urbana? “I loved hanging out at the quad or at the Grainger Library (yikes! but yes).”
– Sengavi Thirupathy, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Spring 2018)
When asked about his experience in the Energy Systems Degree program, Zequn tells us, “I can have access to the cutting-edge energy system knowledge and top world-class engineering courses from The University of Illinois. This program provides various energy related courses, which allows me to pursue the career direction of my choice. Also, the Energy Systems program has a very high freedom of choosing other courses from different fields, such as computer science, which made me very competitive during the career fair. On top of that, the staff from this program are very nice and helpful, I always can get support when I face doubt, no matter from the academic or career path.
“I am currently working at a top 2 power grid company in China in Guangzhou. When I pursued my job from China Southern Power Grid, the Master of Engineering in Energy Systems at Illinois made me very outstanding, as the reputation from such a prestigious university is enormous. Students with a background in the energy systems field are in high demand in China. China is facing the electricity market reform, so students from top overseas’ universities such as UIUC can find lots of opportunities to provide their valuable professional skills and knowledge.”
Zequn advises future students, “I suggest new entry students try different courses at the very beginning of each semester and find the courses that match your career goals. Try to audit some great courses at UIUC, even if you do not need to take the final exam, the knowledge will be very supportive in your future career life.”
What is Zequn’s favorite place in Champaign-Urbana? “The Electrical and Computer Engineering Building has my most beautiful memories, I miss every day I studied there, this building watched my growing up from a student to a skilled engineer.”
– Zequn Wang, M.Eng. in Energy Systems (Spring 2020)