Less than a decade into his career at South Dakota State University, Reinaldo Tonkoski has been named the Harold C. Hohbach Endowed Professor in Electrical Engineering.
Tonkoski, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering, began teaching at State in 2012 after earning his doctorate in electrical engineering from Concordia University in Montreal late 2011. His bachelor’s and master’s degrees were earned in his native Brazil.
Tonkoski is the third person to receive the Hohbach Professorship, which was created in 2011 by the 1943 electrical engineering graduate.
Sid Suryanarayanan, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said selection as an endowed professor is significant because “receiving an endowment represents a high level of trust and expectation by the department and the college on the faculty. Dr. Tonkoski’s impactful work in electric energy systems, an area of critical importance to the region and the nation, justifies this trust.
“I am excited to see Reinaldo realize his plans for success under this award.”
Follows Galipeau, Qiao
Tonkoski said, “I am truly honored and humbled to receive this special award. I am also very thankful to be a faculty member in a university that believe and support our work.” He noted the first recipient, Dave Galipeau, “has been a great mentor and influence in my professional career here at SDSU. Following his steps is a great honor. This professorship will allow our research group and department to grow and produce high impact research as he did.”
Galipeau, a professor in the photovoltaics program, received his medallion that accompanies the professorship at an investiture ceremony Nov. 10, 2011. He held the professorship until retiring Jan. 21, 2015, after 23 years at the university. Although now a professor emeritus, he continues to be active in the department mentoring Dr. Tonkoski.
The other Hohbach Professor was associate professor Qiquan Qiao, whose investiture ceremony was in October 2016. He held the honor until leaving in the summer for a position at the University of Syracuse.
Award to boost research effort
The selection includes a $30,000 annual stipend for five years and the award can be renewed.
Tonkoski said, “This award will allow me to implement a vision of impactful power engineering research, development and market-driven programs. This vision aims to directly impact technology transfer and economic development in the state. The idea is to position the EECS department to act as an effective catalyst of small business in engineering.
“We will work within this framework to make it viable for someone to commercialize the research we do.”
His research interests are renewable energy, microgrids, control systems, and power electronics and power systems. In addition to his research, Tonkoski also teaches upper-level and graduate classes in subjects such as power systems, photovoltaics and wind energy systems.
Tonkoski explains, “My research and teaching focus is on how to better integrate renewable energy sources into power systems, to make it cost-effective, sustainable and improve reliability of the systems so the power system doesn’t come down. Voltage and frequency control are major challenges in this area and are the bread and butter of my research.”
To date, he has received grants and contracts exceeding $1.6 million and trained more than 20 graduate students that are currently working in U.S. national laboratories or in the power industry.
More commercialization envisioned
Most recently was a $3 million, two-year collaborative award from the Department of Energy with SDSU’s portion $593,000. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks is the lead institution on that award that seeks to develop and validate models to help utilities and power systems operators assess if the system is stable with large amount of renewable energy sources.
Funding runs through Aug. 14, 2021.
Tonkoski said the endowed professorship “opens doors to have other initiatives like this DOE grant as well as bringing in visiting scholars to support our work. It can help us seed research and collaborations with other researchers and help us reach out to other research labs, like Sandia National Laboratories that has been instrumental collaborating with our research group.”
One of the goals Tonkoski cited in his Hohbach application was to spur economic development by giving graduate students the training needed to develop spinoff companies from their research. “I want to develop a pattern of students commercializing their research and facilitate internships with industry partners to develop this ecosystem. It’s hard for people to invest in you if they don’t know you.
“We have good relationships with national research labs, but we can work more closely with industry and tailor research projects that are better aligned with their needs.”
Dean Bruce Berdanier said that’s something he wants to see throughout the Lohr College of Engineering.
Berdanier added, “It has been a real personal and professional joy for me to know Reinaldo over the past 10 years and see him grow in expertise in his research and his purposeful development of professional relationships with the national laboratories. This is a very well-deserved honor for Reinaldo as he now moves toward becoming one of our senior professor-leaders in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering.”
Ceremony date TBD
His Hohbach investiture ceremony is tentatively planned for late April, but a date hasn’t been finalized.
Reflecting on the honor, Tonkoski, who turned 40 this year, said, “I’m thrilled to be recognized this early in my career. And also extremely thankful to Mr. Harold C. Hohbach for having established this professorship. This is an exciting moment and a unique opportunity to inspire students to seek solutions for issues we face in the power industry of today and shape the future.”