Sarika Khushalani-Solanki, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering at West Virginia University, has earned a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for her work in power distribution systems. The award comes with $400,000 in funding over a five-year period.

The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development or CAREER program supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. This is the fourth year in a row that a member of the Statler College faculty has been selected to receive this honor.

“Recently recruited faculty members in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources have helped develop new dimensions in many interdisciplinary areas of research,” said Pradeep Fulay, associate dean for research.

As society transitions to more forms of sustainable energy, power companies are oftentimes faced with uncertain load demands and generation. Khushalani-Solanki’s project, formally titled “Stochastic and Data Driven Approaches for Addressing Variabilities in Power Consumption and Generation of Smart Distribution Systems,” will focus on the development of new computer-based methods that can improve both the short- and long-term performance of smart distribution systems.

“Plug-in hybrid vehicles connecting and disconnecting from charging stations and consumer household load behavior can have severe impacts on distribution systems,” said Khushalani-Solanki. “Wind and solar variability have also forced researchers to find alternative solutions that can redesign the traditional management and analysis of power systems to pay more attention to their characteristics and data in a random, or stochastic, sense.”

Khushalani-Solanki will develop a unified framework of stochastic and data-driven approaches to generate scenarios to assist power companies to capture volatility and variability of generation and demand, allowing for increased utilization of sustainable resources and lower costs.

“The work will allow for better management of plug-in hybrid vehicles, reduced cost for consumers, better renewable sources integration and better realization of smart electric distribution systems,” she said.

Working with WVU’s Engineers of Tomorrow program, Khushalani-Solanki will engage graduate and undergraduate students in her work in an effort to assist with the recruitment and retention of students from Appalachia, especially women and minorities. The dissemination will be through invited seminars, short courses delivered to local utility personnel, videos and tutorials made available through professional societies.

Khushalani-Solanki received her doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from Mississippi State University in 2006, where she received the Honda Fellowship as best graduate student. She earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering from India’s Mumbai University and Nagpur University, respectively. She is a senior member of Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, serving as treasurer Upper Monongalia subsection, chair of the Career Promotion and Workforce Development subcommittee and vice chair of the Distribution Systems Analysis subcommittee; and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers.