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An electric academic impact

Anamitra Pal, assistant professor of electrical engineering, wins Centennial Professorship Award from Associated Students of ASU

Anamitra Pal poses on the rooftop of a building on ASU's Tempe campus.

Electrical engineering Assistant Professor Anamitra Pal won the 2023 Centennial Professorship Award from the Associated Students of ASU for embodying the values of academic excellence, community service and social embeddedness in the classroom and beyond. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

April 24, 2023

Anamitra Pal, an assistant professor of electrical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, has recived the Centennial Professorship Award for 2023.

The award — created in 1984 by the Associated Students of Arizona State University, also known as the ASU student government — honors up to three ASU faculty members each year who excel in academic achievement, community service and social embeddedness.

“I am honored to receive this award,” Pal said. “Receiving the 2023 Centennial Award is as much of an achievement for me as it is for the students who have supported me with their hard work and dedication.”

A graduate of Virginia Tech and a faculty member in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering since 2016, Pal’s research specialties are in power grid systems, specifically in monitoring, protection and control of grid functions, energy modeling and smart grids.

The Centennial Professorship Award is the latest notable career accomplishment for Pal, including earning a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2022 and achieving the rank of IEEE Senior Member in 2019. Under his leadership in 2021, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, Phoenix Section Young Professionals Affinity Group also won the IEEE Region 6 Outstanding Affinity Group Chapter of the Year Award.

On fire for the ASU community

Pal volunteers his time to improve the ASU experience for both students and faculty.

He serves at the Fulton Schools’ E2 program for incoming first-year students, where he gives presentations on what students can expect during their time at the Fulton Schools and what societal problems they can help solve through engineering. He also leads student research at ASU through the NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

Beyond volunteering to assist in students’ academic and research activities, Pal served as a faculty advisor ASU’s Asha for Education student chapter, which helps support education in areas of India with high poverty rates. The group provides financial assistance and support to non-governmental organizations focused on education projects.

He also supported new engineering faculty as a member of the Fulton Schools New Faculty Advisory Council from 2019 to 2022. The group helps new ASU engineering faculty members adjust to their positions through social activities and professional development opportunities.

Powering up students’ electrical engineering interest

When it comes to his teaching and mentoring philosophy, Pal believes in listening to his students to better understand them.

“I am an advocate of the philosophy that it is futile to win an argument but lose the individual,” he said. “For facilitating open discussions, I create an atmosphere of mutual respect, trust and empathy in my research lab. That way, my students can talk about their problems without feeling inhibited by position or personality.”

To engage his students with the topics they’re learning, Pal will relate the concepts he teaches to real-life experiences. When teaching about single-phase induction motors, he uses an example of a fan that requires being pushed by hand to start, even after the switch is turned on.

“It turns out many of the students had faced such a situation in the past,” Pal said. “When I explain to them the reason, a failed starting capacitor, they are able to better relate an electrical engineering phenomenon with their own experiences.”

He also fuels students’ interest in the practical applications of electrical engineering with guest presentations and tours of industry facilities, such as the Salt River Project control center.

Pal’s mentorship inspired Reetam Sen Biswas, a research and development engineer at Hitachi Energy and ASU electrical engineering doctoral degree graduate, to write a recommendation letter to support Pal’s nomination for the award.

“Pal always encourages creative and ‘outside the box’ thinking,” Sen Biswas said. “He shows great enthusiasm and interest when any graduate student comes up with their own ideas.”

Sen Biswas emphasized Pal’s determination to improve students’ professional development by encouraging them to participate in internships and conference paper competitions. He said Pal is always readily available to meet with students for discussions and any assistance they may need.

Sen Biswas also shared that Pal coaches his students to hone their research presentation skills, which also helps them in job interviews.

“After graduation, I was interviewed by a well-known power systems company, Hitachi Energy,” Sen Biswas said. “The interviewers were impressed with my dissertation, securing me a full-time job.”

ASU electrical engineering Regents Professor Vijay Vittal noted Pal’s teaching as well-deserving of the Centennial Professorship Award.

“Anamitra is a very dedicated teacher, and I am glad that his sincerity, enthusiasm and excitement for working with and mentoring students in and out of class has been rewarded,” Vittal said. “He dedicates a lot of time to students, and when he takes on a responsibility, he puts his heart and soul into it.”

Moving the power grid into the future

Matthew Rhodes, SRP’s principal engineer for grid operations support, works with Pal on the company’s joint research projects with ASU. He said that Pal is productive and exciting to work with on the industry research.

“Anamitra is constantly pushing the envelope in research that assists utilities in moving forward to analyze the constantly changing power grid,” Rhodes said. “He has always tailored research to fill currently relevant gaps in utility maintenance and operations.”

Pal’s career and research goal is to fill these gaps in the face of a changing electricity landscape to ensure the future resilience of the power grid. He aims to educate the next generation of power grid workers who can rise to the challenge of using modern, data-driven methods to improve electric infrastructure.

Over the next 20 years, Pal said, artificial intelligence-enabled monitoring, protection and control of the power grid based on accurate, quickly delivered data will be crucial in the face of climate change, renewable energy’s increasing role in power generation and the proliferation of electric vehicles.

“I want to devote my career to creating robust and resilient electric power infrastructure that can ‘keep the lights on’ even under the most strenuous of circumstances,” Pal said.

He will be presented the Centennial Professorship Award during ASU’s Graduate Professional Student Association award ceremony on April 27 on ASU’s Tempe campus. 

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