Professional Enrichment Advances Students—and Energy Technology

Achievement date: 

Graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) enhanced their professional skills by participating in research, internships, professional development seminars, and special events organized by the Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT), a collaboration between academia, industry, and national laboratories that is co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy and headquartered at UTK. 


Developing innovative, globally connected engineering graduates for the energy sector while advancing energy technology underpins CURENT’s work. To this end, the Center conducts education programs that provide multidisciplinary, team-driven, and systems-oriented opportunities for students to grow and thrive in a culture that links engineering research to technological innovation. Last year, CURENT contributed to more than 85 semester-long research terms, 12 undergraduate student internships, 32 graduate student internships, and 18 student-centered career building activities.


CURENT’s professional development activities for the year featured two cultural diversity seminars, two National Instruments (NI) Labview Workshops, and 23 seminars, including: three each on women in leadership, business skills, and intellectual property; five on communication; and nine on innovation.

A number of individual student achievements were part of the program’s success. In October 2015, undergraduate Jessica Boles took third prize overall in the ERC program-wide Perfect Pitch competition held in Washington, DC¾the only undergraduate student among the top three finishers. She also helped create and served as lead organizer for the WomEngineers’ Day Conference, which was open to men and women and gave students the opportunity to learn about and discuss professional and personal topics not found in the engineering classroom.


Another undergraduate was selected to receive an IEEE Power and Energy (PES) Scholarship, which provides three years of funding and up to two years of hands-on-career experience. Three women ambassadors had the opportunity to participate in the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference. One undergraduate participated in a summer research exchange with UTK’s partner university in China, Southeast University in Nanjing. A number of students published conference papers about their summer research.