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AEP Ohio gifts $250,000 in support of JK Wang's cybersecurity power grid research

Julie Sloat of AEP, Assistant Professor JK Wang, Kate Bartter of OEE and David William of COEAmerican Electric Power offered a gift of support to The Ohio State University toward its research protecting power grids from cyber-attacks.

On May 17, the Ohio branch of the utility company gifted $250,000 to Dr. JK Wang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at Ohio State, in support of her power grid cyber security research.

Wang joined the university in January 2014 with a joint appointment in ECE and Integrated Systems Engineering. Her research focuses on emerging technologies of modern power system operation and planning, electricity markets, reconfiguration, demand side management, distributed generation and renewable energy.

AEP Ohio is responsible for delivering electricity to 1.4 million Ohioans through a network of thousands of miles of power lines that crisscross the state. American Electric Power, AEP Ohio’s parent company, has 224,000 miles of electric lines across 11 states, providing the physical and cyber security for these lines and the systems that support them. The company is acutely aware of these emerging threats and security risks. By way of a grant to Ohio State, the company hopes to convert awareness to action.

The Electric Power Grid Research Group Wang leads at Ohio State systematically investigates cyber, physical and economic issues relevant to the grid-level integration of energy and power delivery. In particular, its research focuses on electric power distribution networks, which are the last stage in delivering electricity to consumers, to make power supply more reliable, cyber-secure, energy efficient and environment friendly.  

AEP Ohio's President and Chief Operating Officer, Julie Sloat, said it is privilege to offer Wang's group research funding support, especially as an alumna from both the undergraduate and graduate schools at Ohio State.

Funding is always an issue in order to keep projects moving forward, in both academia and industry.

Fortunately, she said, cybersecurity is a strong focus at AEP.

"Using the word 'cyber' gets a lot of attention at my company," Sloat said. "We're just getting started. We don't know what the energy company of the future is going to look like. We're going to figure it out together. We are thrilled we are able to provide this funding."

Sloat earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a double major in finance and economics from Ohio State. In 1999, she went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration at Ohio State and was the recipient of the Faculty Recognition Academic Excellence Award and the Weidler Scholar Award for placing in the top 15 percent of her class.

"(Ohio State) provided me with a wonderful opportunity for a wonderful career," she said. "To get to be here on behalf of AEP - it blows my mind that I get to do this."

Ohio State's Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. David B. Williams welcomed AEP Ohio at the Blackwell on campus Thursday to help recognize the work of Wang and her students.

"(It's) an extraordinary gift to the College of Engineering," Williams said. "I would like to thank JK for all the work she is doing. The partnership we have with AEP is very extraordinary in many different areas in this college. Obviously, electric power generation and distribution are areas of great interest to all of us, not just now but into the future. The tie-in with cybersecurity is an area that we in the college and the university are deeply interested in broadening. The security of our electric power system goes right to the heart of our civilization."

Williams said the partnership with AEP is longstanding at the university, which spans into their collective work with Columbus 2020. He said the race is on to expand power capacity to make way for smart city development and increased use of electric transportation. 

"This (gift) is another example of AEP's generosity," he said.