Jian Shi, an assistant professor at the Cullen College of Engineering with a dual appointment to the Engineering Technology and Electrical & Computer Engineering departments, won't soon forget his son's 10th birthday.
It's not just for that reason, but because it was also the day he was notified that he had earned a National Science Foundation CAREER award for his research proposal, “A Unified Zero-Carbon-Driven Design Framework for Accelerating Power Grid Deep Decarbonization.”
“It was a moment of sheer joy, and I couldn't have asked for a more meaningful birthday gift,” Shi said. “Balancing the joy of my son's milestone and the success in my research endeavors, that day became a cherished memory filled with both personal and professional triumphs!”
Shi is the director and founder of SOAR, the Smart and ZerO-Carbon Energy Analytics and Research Lab. Shi's research aims to facilitate the transition to renewable energy, by reducing the short-term and long-term social costs of decarbonization. The award runs through February 2029, with $500,861 in funding.
Shi said his goal is “developing new carbon-driven mechanisms, methodologies and algorithms into the existing power grid operation conventions to accommodate and accelerate the process of decarbonization, while maintaining its desired operational characteristics and societal responsibilities.”
He added, “Besides research, another key aspect of my CAREER proposal is to train the next-generation energy workforce and prepare them to understand, engage in and ultimately lead the energy transition in the decades to come. As a Hispanic-serving institution with a diverse student body, UH has provided excellent opportunities for me to engage and train students from all backgrounds, especially Hispanic and Asian American students, to foster a more diversified and vibrant workforce in the future energy industry.”
Shi noted that his research is only possible because of the support he has received from his colleagues.
“I believe no accomplishment is truly individual,” he said. “Rather, it is a collective triumph achieved through collaboration, support and shared dedication. As I reflect on the milestones I've reached, I am compelled to express my deepest gratitude to my esteemed colleagues whose unwavering commitment has been instrumental in not just 'mine,' but 'our' collective success.”
At Cullen, Shi identified three fellow professors that had been instrumental in his collective accomplishment – Zhu Han, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Electrical Engineering; Harish Krishnamoorthy, Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department; and Gino Lim, R. Larry and Gerlene R. Snider Endowed Chair of the Industrial Engineering Department.
“Dr. Han is a distinguished scholar whose inspiration has helped shape my academic journey and led me to explore this uncharted research subject back in 2021,” he said. “Dr. Han's guidance provided not just valuable knowledge but also profound insights into conducting research on decarbonization and energy transition, which directly lead to the development of this CAREER proposal.”
“Dr. Krishnamoorthy is a fantastic friend and collaborator who has gone to great lengths in guiding me in crafting winning proposals and has given me invaluable encouragement. His dedication to excellence truly sets a remarkable example for me and other junior faculty members to follow.”
“Lastly, my appreciation goes to Dr. Lim from the IE Department. Dr. Lim's dual role as a collaborator and mentor created a dynamic and enriching professional relationship that shaped not only my skills in research but also influenced my approach to collaboration and mentorship in my own professional engagements.”
Shi also complimented Renu Khator, the chancellor of the University of Houston system and the president of the University of Houston campus, and several others in the Cullen administration, for their work to establish the energy transition as a major institutional research thrust for the university.
“President Khator is steering UH towards a pivotal role in advancing sustainable and innovative solutions in the energy sector,” he said. “This vision was instrumental in shaping the direction of my CAREER proposal. I extend my thanks to my chair, Dr. Fatima Merchant, for the continual help and support she has provided in advancing my academic and professional goals. Additionally, I want to express my appreciation to Dr. Kaushik Rajashekara, Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Dr. Joseph B. Powell, Director of UH Energy Transition Institute, Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, Vice President of Energy and Innovation at UH, and Dr. Badri Roysam, Chair of the Department of ECE, for their continuous trust in me and generous support throughout this journey.”
Shi hopes that the research from the award will allow him to better pursue his research.
“Thanks to this award, I will now be fully dedicated to working on my long-term research goal: to transform knowledge into actionable force for impact and collaborate with key climate stakeholders to shape the landscape of future energy ecosystems in the Lone Star State and beyond.” he said.