Texas Tech University

Doctoral, Graduate Student Earns Award from Department of Energy

George Watson

October 5, 2017


Amin Nikakhtar is a doctoral candidate in industrial engineering and a master's student in mathematics.

Amin Nikakhtar
Amin Nikakhtar

Efficiency, reliability and safety – three of the key components in any business, large or small. Those that are best at blending all three are usually the most successful.

But doing so is much easier said than done, which is why those in charge often turn to others to develop the methods by which optimization and improvement are done as much as possible without the existing limitations.

Amin Nikakhtar, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Industrial, Manufacturing & Systems Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering and a master's student in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the College of Arts & Sciences, is seeking a fast and efficient mathematical solution to optimize and improve the performance of a certain process given the process constraints.

His efforts attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which has awarded Nikakhtar the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Award, which recognizes his academic accomplishments and the merit of the research he has proposed as well as his potential to eventually contribute to the DOE's Office of Science.

"This fellowship is an excellent opportunity to gain experience facing real-world projects that are of national importance while working with cutting-edge technologies,” Nikakhtar said. "Moreover, I will have the opportunity to work with distinguished and famous researchers and scientists in the field of mathematical optimization and computer science. Receiving this award is a recognition of the importance of mathematical optimization in the Department of Energy's works.”

As part of the award, which runs from March 26 to Sept. 26, Nikakhtar will conduct research related to his project, "Polynomial Optimization for Optimal Power Flow and Assured Generation,” at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He will receive up to $3,000 in a monthly stipend for general living expenses as well as up to $2,000 for travel expenses to and from the laboratory.

"We're excited to see a Texas Tech graduate student successfully compete for this prestigious federal award,” said Tim Dallas, associate dean of the Graduate School. "Mr. Nikakhtar will have a great opportunity to further his doctoral research.”

For his work, Nikakhtar will seek, through mathematical formulations, to reach improvement and optimization goals while considering the limitations. In his case, Nikakhtar will be dealing with large power plants that have huge operating costs as well as high demands to satisfy, all while ensuring the plant is secure. The size of the power plants necessitates that Nikakhtar's mathematical formulas be quite large, therefore requiring efficient and intelligent methods while utilizing high-tech computing facilities.

"What I hope to accomplish through this project is developing a software that could help practitioners involved in the field of power flow optimization get reliable and optimal solutions to their problems,” Nikakhtar said.

The SCGSR program was created to provide graduate students supplemental awards to support their doctoral dissertation while giving them the opportunity to conduct research in a DOE laboratory or facility. Awards are intended to cover incremental costs associated with living and travel expenses during the award's term. The SCGSR partners with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education for administrative support for the program.

Nikakhtar credited doctoral adviser Ismael de Farias, an associate professor in the Department of Industrial, Manufacturing & Systems Engineering, and master's adviser Victoria Howle, an associate professor and associate chair of graduate studies in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, with helping him earn this award.

"I am very excited for Amin to have received this SCGSR Award from the DOE Office of Science,” Howle said. "He is an excellent student, and this award will give him the invaluable opportunity to work closely with a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory while also completing his graduate research at Texas Tech. Amin's excellence and drive led to developing this collaboration with ORNL and to his successful proposal to the SCGSR program. I am proud of his work and thrilled that he has received this award.”

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at Texas Tech Today Media Resources or follow us on Twitter.