Doctoral Students Do Research in Different Engineering and Public Policy Problems

EPP Students Group

The passion for Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) is a common thing to Colleen Horin, Alexandre Mateus and Brandon Mauch. Horin and Mauch are dual degree doctoral students, in the second and third year respectively. Alexandre Mateus finished his Ph.D. program in April and became the first graduate in the dual degree Ph.D. program of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program.  

Alexandre Mateus May 2011

Alexandre Mateus enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University in 2006. Later he found out about the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program and he decided to became a part of this partnership. Four and a half years later he graduated. An experience that he considers “rewarding”. Advised by two professors, Pedro Ferreira (Instituto Superior Técnico da Universidade Técnica de Lisboa) and Jon Peha (Carnegie Mellon University), Mateus studied the Copyright Violation on the Internet: Extent and Approaches to Detection and Deterrence.

Mateus says that “it is not possible to determine with accuracy the impact of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing on sales, but it is common to say that P2P leads to fewer sales.” Mateus’ work yielded significant findings that can contribute to a better understanding of the impact of Peer-to-Peer on sales of content and to enhance the effectiveness of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). Most of the claims are made by Music, Movie, TV, Book and Software industries. Based on the network data collected using deep packet inspection from a large-scale quantitative assessment of online exchanges of copyrighted material at the University of Illinois, Mateus found out that usually students became P2P users prior to college, and they obtain “a diverse mix of content from P2P [including music, video and software] with a heavy-tailed distribution of popularity, but close to one fourth of P2P users also purchased content from the iTunes Store, each buying about as much as iTunes Store customers who didn’t use P2P.” On the other hand, the research team found out that “current DPI technology identifies most users attempting to transfer copyrighted material, out of users whose P2P traffic it can detect.” In the future, Mateus would like to work in this area because he knows that efficient policy can improve people’s life. Based on the network data collected using deep packet inspection from a large-scale quantitative assessment of online exchanges of copyrighted material at the University of Illinois, Mateus found out that usually students became P2P users prior to college, and they obtain “a diverse mix of content from P2P [including music, video and software] with a heavy-tailed distribution of popularity, but close to one fourth of P2P users also purchased content from the iTunes Store, each buying about as much as iTunes Store customers who didn’t use P2P.”

Reconfigurable Networks and Integration of Intermittent Renewable Energy

Colleen Horin became a dual degree Ph.D. student in EPP, at Instituto Superior Técnico da Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (IST/UTL) and at Carnegie Mellon University, in 2009. Horin has a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from MIT and a Master’s in EPP from the University of Maryland. Her goal is to show that reconfiguration allows a grid operator to reduce operational losses and costs as well as accept more wind than a static configuration can. Therefore, she is repeating the analysis using data from a solar photovoltaic (PV) generator instead of a wind farm. Horin explains that “net present value analysis of automated switch technology shows that the return on investment when using reconfiguration for loss reduction is not positive under most conditions, but would be very attractive when reconfiguration is used to minimize wind curtailment.”  

Colleen Horin is also interested in studying the effects of the electricity sector on electric cars. While she was at the University of Maryland, she carried out research to detect the effects of Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Technology on the Electricity Grid in Washington DC. During this study, she found out that to maximize social benefit from V2G system, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) purchases and optimal charging patterns must be encouraged, and charging infrastructure should be created. On the other hand, V2G reduces costs of operating the electricity grid, enables large deployment of variable renewable, efficient adaptation to carbon prices, and the adoption of PHEVs, and V2G improves utilization of existing assets, reducing need for additional generating and transmission capital expenditures.

During this study, Horin found ideas about what kind of research should be conducted in the near future: it is necessary to understand the most effective distribution of V2G benefits amongst utilities and consumers, funds required to develop changing infrastructure, appropriate subsidy levels to encourage PHEV adoption, hourly price signals to ensure desired consumers charge in an optimal fashion.

Colleen Horin May 2011 

Wind Power, Energy Policy and Decision Making Under Uncertainty
Enrolled in 2008, Brandon Mauch is now in his third year as a dual degree doctoral student in EPP, at IST/UTL and at CMU. Mauch holds a BS. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Kansas, and a MS. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Wisconsin – Madison. Like Colleen Horin, Brandon Mauch is carrying out research in the energy domain. His goal is to learn the cost of managing wind forecast uncertainty.

Brandon Mauch May 2011 

Mauch considers that “wind power uncertainty creates reliability problems for electric grids.” “I am examining a way to deal with this uncertainty,” Mauch explains and adds “the first part of this project was to model the economics of collocating energy storage with a wind farm in order to sell wind power in the day-ahead electricity market.” Currently, he is working to quantify the cost that short term wind forecast errors impose on an electric grid. During his research, Mauch discovered that although forecasting models are becoming better at predicting wind power, uncertainty will always exist. Therefore, “the ability to determine probabilities of wind shortfalls for different conditions and incorporating these probabilistic models into reserve requirement calculations, will allow more effective use of energy resources.”  


Furthermore, Mauch with his advisors Paulo Carvalho (IST/UTL) and Jay Apt (CMU), wrote a paper titled “Can a Wind Farm with Storage Survive in the Day-Ahead Market?” The research team concluded that: “At current electricity prices, selling wind power on the day-ahead market is not justifiable without subsidies.” Additionally, when they estimated electricity prices to include a carbon cost, they found that “revenue is still not enough to cover costs. Income from the day‐ahead market alone is not sufficient for wind with CAES without financial assistance.” However, “storage will provide additional income on Regulation Markets and on the Capacity Markets,” they think.

Brandon Mauch already started his internship at BOSH - Research and Technology Center, in Pittsburgh. His goal is to “try to understand how industry values the management of the demand side, and which appliances can be configured to control the reliability”. This internship will finish on August, and in September 2011, he will return to Portugal.

June 2011