Bridging the Gap: One IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) Scholar Recipient’s Journey to Make a Difference

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During the month of October when we celebrate Energy Awareness Month and our thoughts turn to combatting overarching issues such as climate change and how to implement sustainable energy solutions, we need to think globally. 

Jairo Ramirez Torres, a IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) ‘21-‘22 Scholar Recipient and ’22 Arizona State University (ASU) alumnus who holds a BSE in Electrical Engineering and BS in Economics, is doing just that as he aims to be a “bridge” between engineering and the world.

To do this, Jairo is currently rounding out his education by earning a master’s degree in Economics of Globalization and European Integration at the Università degli Studi di Bari in Italy, with the goal of being able to better measure the real-world effectiveness, practicality, and cost of future engineering initiatives. 

 Jairo’s interest in engineering was stoked in high school when he joined a summer camp at a university in his home country of Puerto Rico. 

“There are no engineers in my family, and I still didn’t have a full understanding of what engineering was but given the energy problems Puerto Rico faces, the camp had a big impact on me,” he said.

Jairo chose to attend ASU largely because of its large solar energy research program and intended to do a five-year bachelor’s plus master’s in solar energy engineering but switched to electrical because it was more in line with the work he wanted to pursue.

At ASU, Jairo “almost by accident” got involved in research not related to engineering, which started taking his thoughts, and goals, in a new direction.

“I started reaching out to professors to do research and ended up working with a professor who studied as an engineer and was part of ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society,” he explained. “The school is very interdisciplinary and was the start of my ‘open journey’ in engineering. My work with them looking at areas of the US with a higher percentage of employment tied to fossil fuels that are more vulnerable to losing jobs through the use of renewable energy ended up becoming my thesis.” 

Another research project measuring phasor measurement units, or PMUs, served to reinforce what he saw as an overarching need for a more “holistic approach” to engineering. 

“PMUs are a great example of this,” Jairo noted. “Developed in the 90s and just now being implemented, they are a huge leap forward from what we had before – but it’s taken 30 years to get here.”

When asked why, Jairo explained that regulation and funding are often the reason viable engineering initiatives take so long to implement.

“Through these projects, I saw some aspects in engineering that I thought were missing, which is why I want to take a more holistic approach to the problem of energy – basically, an understanding of the world outside of numbers, science, and technology,” he said. “At ASU, we had several project-based courses and to be honest none of what we did was successful outside of the classroom. We tend to forget to factor in real-world practicality – will people use these things and are they economically feasible? These are the kinds of questions I want to be able to look at and answer.” 

Jairo recognizes that his journey is different than that of many engineers but feels that the time is coming – and has indeed come – for a new way of thinking.

“Coming to Europe gives me an advantage because solving the world’s energy issues and climate change isn’t the responsibility of any one country. We must start thinking more globally and find ways to implement feasible change more quickly he said. “At the end of the day, my plan is to go back to Puerto Rico. This is why I study – to go back and do what I can to help out my home. I’m studying to see what I can do to make a difference.”

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