by Nicole Capozziello
Published June 22, 2021
Uma Pratheebha, a PhD student in electrical engineering, was recently chosen as the recipient of a new highly competitive scholarship from Advanced Energy.
The Advanced Energy STEM Diversity Scholarship was created in 2020 to support gender-diverse and racially diverse students in electrical engineering, physics and material science. The University at Buffalo was one of five institutions invited to participate in the program and Pratheebha was one of four winners in this inaugural year.
Founded in 1981, Advanced Energy is a global semiconductor manufacturing company based out of Denver, Colo. The company currently operates more than 25 locations globally, including one in Lockport, N.Y.
Tim Rushlow, senior engineering manager for Advanced Energy in Lockport, was asked to participate in the scholarship committee. “As one of the company’s technology leaders, I’m working on developing relationships with the local educational institutions to create a pipeline for people and ideas. This is a new experience for me and it was natural to use the schools which produced my current team, including UB,” says Rushlow.
“My goal is to build a relationship with UB that creates a path for talent, learning and technology development,” he adds. “The scholarship is an indication that Advanced Energy is serious about this and nothing says serious like investing in students.”
In addition to UB, the scholarship is open to eligible undergraduate and graduate students at Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Colorado, Colorado State University and Colorado School of Mines. Winners receive a $20,000 scholarship grant toward the cost of tuition, as well as mentorship and a paid three-month summer internship at Advanced Energy.
“I am very excited about Advanced Energy’s commitment to promoting improved representation for women and members of underrepresented minority groups, and to working with us at UB towards the goal of reducing existing inequities in society,” says Jon Bird, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering. “With Advanced Energy targeting UB as just one of five institutions of higher ed nationally, it really speaks to the faith that they have in the quality of our programs, and to our commitment to ensuring that all members of society get the opportunity to experience the benefits of higher education.”
Scholarship submissions opened in November of 2020 and the first recipients were announced on April 30, 2021. “We are so pleased to have a UB student as one of our inaugural STEM Diversity Scholarship recipients,” says Erica Brown, Advanced Energy’s vice president of global talent, organization development and learning.
In her research, Pratheebha, who hails from Chennai, India, looks at strategies using solar-based sustainable techniques and materials for freshwater production to address the world's water crisis. She says that this area has thus far been under-researched, particularly by women. Pratheebha’s advisor Qiaoqiang Gan, a professor of electrical engineering, alerted her to the scholarship and encouraged her to apply.
“This scholarship, mentorship and internship opportunity has highly motivated me towards reaching my current goal of researching and realizing sustainable and cost-efficient fresh water production using solar energy,” says Pratheebha.
She will complete her internship in spring or summer of 2022 at one of Advanced Energy’s offices. “I am hoping my internship will help me gain real-world experience and develop an application-based perspective for my research,” she says. “I am most excited about getting to learn about the different approaches used for investing solar energy in an industrial setting and carrying it forward towards my research.”
Looking to the future, leaders at both UB and Advanced Energy are optimistic about where this scholarship program can lead. Besides the scholarship winners, the application process exposed members of Advanced Energy to students’ work more broadly, leading to potential mutually beneficial outcomes, like internships and job opportunities.
“Through internships we can learn from students the latest information and techniques being taught while being able to show them real-world engineering opportunities,” says Rushlow. “If the synergy is good, we may even pursue hiring the student upon graduation.”
Published June 22, 2021