Grad student Youssef Elasser awarded unrestricted NSF Fellowship

Friday, Apr 17, 2020
by Scott Lyon

An electrical engineering graduate student has been awarded a fellowship from the National Science Foundation to study sustainable energy solutions.

Youssef Elasser, who studies power electronics and power systems as they relate to renewable energy, will receive three years of unrestricted funding through the NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the oldest U.S. grant program of its kind. By advancing the components that store and transfer electricity across the globe, Elasser hopes to better leverage renewable energy and more efficiently distribute power for major greenhouse-gas-emitting sectors like transportation.

"We need to fundamentally rethink how our grid works to integrate solar, wind and electric vehicles," Elasser said. The questions that drive his research start from a basic and pragmatic place. "How do you accomplish that?" The answers touch nearly every aspect of 21st century life.

Elasser began working on power electronics in 2016, as part of another NSF-funded venture, studying step-down voltage converters during an undergraduate research experience at Washington State University. The following year, in 2017, he was an Edison Engineering Intern at General Electric, where he got his first taste working on grid solutions. That early experience came together in his graduate work with Minjie Chen, assistant professor of electrical engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, with whom he has cowritten a number of papers detailing massive increases in efficiency for components used in data centers.

With no restrictions, the NSF fellowship gives Elasser room to take bigger intellectual risks and to ask some of the most exciting and pressing questions of the modern era. "I was always interested in the climate change issue from a sphere of results," he said. "This fellowship will allow me to broaden back out and focus on the existential crisis of our generation."