Faces of Research: Meet Maryam Saeedifard

Meet Maryam Saeedifard, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and faculty council member at the Strategic Energy Institute (SEI).

SEI is one of Georgia Tech's 10 interdisciplinary research institutes (IRIs) within the Georgia Tech Research enterprise.

What is your field of expertise and why did you choose it?

My research is in power electronics, which is a key technology to enable a sustainable energy future. Renewable energy is envisioned to be one of the main pathways to reach zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions but creates many challenges in terms of grid integration, transmission, distribution, utilization, and storage. Power electronics have played and will continue to play a pivotal role to address those challenges and ensure that the high penetration level of renewable energy in the power grid can happen while maintaining robustness, efficiency, and availability. My research especially focuses on the development of innovative power electronics-based technologies that improve the overall system performance in terms of cost, efficiency, power density, robustness, and reliability.

I chose this field because it sits at the intersection of control, signal processing, circuits, and networked systems. Also, advances in this field can have significant impact on our society.

What makes your research unique?

My research is unique in that it blends experimental work, theoretical designs, and deployment at scale with immediate impact in industry. I was fortunate to be one of the first researchers investigating a new class of power converters that revolutionized how we design high-voltage energy conversion systems. Those converters offer an unprecedented level of control that can be leveraged to achieve unprecedented performance. My research has been exploring the opportunities offered by those converters from the generation to the distribution of energy.

What impact has your research had on the world?

By 2030, 80% of all electric power is expected to be processed by power electronics before it reaches the end user. Power electronics converters handle a large portion of the energy flowing in the power grid and are also key components in many high-payoff, fast-growing, and large-volume applications. The ability to develop compact, lightweight, robust and ultra-efficient power converters will have significant implications on the power industry, leading to increased penetration of renewable energy into the grid and a greener low-carbon footprint society, improved energy efficiency and asset utilization, and enhanced grid reliability, and security.

In the near term, the improvements in power density and efficiency will have immediate and broad impacts on existing systems. For example, the manufacturing, transportation, and installation inside the body of a modern wind turbines with a capacity of few megawatts is a monumental task because of their large size and weight. The use of robust power converters will also lead to overall substantial economic savings. Any failed grid asset can cause unexpected power interruptions, outages, or safety issues, costing millions of dollars.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not working on your research or teaching?

I enjoy traveling, exploring different countries and cultures, reading, cooking, and baking. I am an avid fan of outdoor activities such as hiking, especially in exotic places and mountains. During the pandemic, like probably millions of others, I furthered my cooking skills by watching baking shows online.