After Gabriel Intriago spent two summers in California during a J1 Work & Travel program, he knew he wanted to come back to pursue a graduate degree at UC Santa Cruz. Now, Intriago is a second year electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. student working in Assistant Professor Yu Zhang’s Energy, Optimization & Data Analytics Lab (eODAL). His research focuses on using machine learning techniques to prevent cyber security attacks on power systems.
Why did you choose to pursue a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the Baskin School of Engineering?
Prior to joining UCSC, I served as a research fellow with the Industrial Control in Automation Research Group at Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) in Ecuador. There, I worked on power systems state estimation methods, which accounted for most of my research interests at that time. When I was looking at Ph.D. programs, I discovered that Assistant Professor Yu Zhang, who is now my advisor, was doing outstanding work in power systems and I wanted to be a part of that. Also, the campus proximity to Silicon Valley interested me because of the many opportunities available to pursue a career in tech.
What’s your experience been like so far?
In one word: Amazing. From the class perspective, I’ve found that all my classes are enriching and the instructors are committed to helping students succeed. From the research perspective, I’m really thankful for my advisor Professor Zhang. My research skills have improved a lot under his guidance. My research group’s work combines the areas of optimization, power systems, and machine learning. I’m always learning something new and really enjoy working with my outstanding Ph.D. fellows.
How did COVID-19 impact your academic and research life?
I actually really enjoy working from home. I think it’s time efficient and I’m able to generate more creative ideas. I do all my research from my laptop to begin with, so I haven’t been impacted by remote research as much as other people. Right now I’m in Ecuador. The pandemic has given me the opportunity to come back to my home country to be with my wife, family, and friends, and spend time with them that I otherwise wouldn’t have. My plan is to come back to Santa Cruz and study once again on campus in the fall.
Tell me about the research you’re currently working on at Baskin Engineering?
My research lies at the intersection of power systems and machine learning for data streams. In traditional machine learning, we typically learn the model using a finite dataset consisting of measurements with or without labels. What I am doing is machine learning in the streaming paradigm. The dataset is assumed to be infinite and the model is learned incrementally. The model updates its infrastructure in a limited amount of time using a limited amount of memory and it has to be able to timely predict.
Power systems fit the streaming paradigm and several applications could be developed. My research focuses on how to prevent cyber attacks in power systems. Cyber attackers typically disguise malicious actions into normal operation signals. Currently, I’m working on discriminating cyber attacks from typical perturbations. I’m using machine learning for data streams to classify power systems events and disturbances in real time.
I have a recent publication named, “Online Dictionary Learning Based Fault and Cyber Attack Detection for Power Systems,” which was presented in a Best Paper Session at the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting 2021.
What’s your plan for after you receive your Ph.D degree?
I would be super excited to join the tech industry or take a postdoc position. I would like to continue doing collaborative research with scholars from the U.S. or from my home country, Ecuador. I’m hoping as I get closer to graduating, my career plans for after receiving my degree will become more clear.
What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I love listening to music. I can’t sing or dance well, but I really enjoy listening to Spanish rock, American rock, and tropical music styles from Latin America like salsa, merengue, and reggaeton.
Intriago's webpage: https://sites.google.com/site/gintriag
Interview date: Tuesday, July 27, 2021