Baskin Engineering Professor Receives Hellman Fellowship

Professor Yu Zhang
Rose Miyatsu

Yu Zhang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering at the University of California Santa Cruz, has been awarded a 2019 Hellman Fellowship. Fellowships are awarded to junior faculty members to support their early research.

Zhang received the Hellman Fellowship to fund his project, “Modernizing Power System Planning and Optimization to Improve Grid Resilience Against Hazardous Events.” In the proposal he submitted for the fellowship, Zhang points out the importance of power grids for national security and economic growth, and the need to protect them from a wide range of hazards. He explains that “unmitigated vulnerabilities in power grids can cause devastating damages, as evidenced by the recent deadly wildfires in California and hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.” To prevent such devastating failures, his project aims to improve the reliability and resilience of the future power distribution systems against various hazards.

Zhang’s project will be “the first quantitative study of undergrounding power lines to weigh the tradeoffs of lower failure rates against longer repair times under various hazard scenarios.” It will also directly impact the UCSC campus and surrounding communities by preventing power outages and saving energy bills, significantly improving the power quality of campus.

The Hellman Fellows Program was first established in 1994 by the Hellman family, who believed that junior faculty could benefit from early-career funding. Over the years, it has provided support for more than 1,500 junior faculty members. The program selects junior faculty from fourteen institutions, including the ten universities in the University of California system and four private institutions.