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Student Spotlight: Subiksha Madhavan Reshikeshan

People choose where they study based on a variety of factors, and it’s often a difficult decision to make. For Subiksha Madhavan Reshikeshan, it was easy. Research led her toward earning a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

As a young student in India, Reshikeshan was drawn early on toward electrical power systems engineering. While other students went off seeking the newest technological trends, she saw a different opportunity to make a difference.

"The thing that drew me toward power engineering is we see problems with the electrical grid around us every day," she said.

In India, for example, power cuts happen regularly during peak seasons.

"They could not meet the demands," Reshikeshan said. "They had the technology, they had the resources, but the deployment was missing somewhere. You just have to plan properly and ensure things get deployed. That is something that an engineer needs to do. That is what drew me to this field."

While conducting work for her undergraduate thesis at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Reshikeshan discovered the power engineering research of Ohio State Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Mahesh Illindala. Interested in his achievements, she decided to contact him about studying under his guidance.

“He was the one who said ‘Apply to Ohio State and come here. It would be good to have you here,’” Reshikeshan said.

Apply she did. Today, Illindala serves as her Ph.D. advisor on a variety of research projects associated with Ohio State’s Center for High Performance Power Electronics (CHPPE), a facility focusing on new technologies in power electronics and systems. She is part of a group studying flexible distribution of energy and storage resources.

Within CHPPE, Reshikeshan also does research on evaluating the robustness of power system configurations, in which she tries to find microgrid islands to handle disturbances, which are also not susceptible to collapse. 

Another project she is working on involves distributed generation penetration in the electric grid; trying to figure out how multiple smaller generation units, which help tackle high energy demand, could fit into a distribution grid.

After earning her Ph.D., Reshikeshan wants to continue new research while working in academia and then start pursuing teaching. 

One thing is certain, she said, coming to Ohio State as a graduate student truly changed the trajectory of her life for the better.

"A good Ph.D. program can help you get confidence," Reshikeshan said. "I feel if you are fundamentally interested in science then you should take up research. For me, it has helped me get time to explore things I am very interested in, which I don't think I would have been able to do if I went into industry. Here, I have the freedom to dwell deeper into things that fundamentally interest me, which I find I am really liking here."

Choosing power systems engineering was more a result of finding herself, Reshikeshan said, as opposed to following the crowd. As an undergraduate, power engineering wasn't a popular field.

"Power is a very old system. It's been around for hundreds of years now. There are more fields developing new, like communications - every day wireless communications is developing something new," she said.

Her advice to ECE undergraduate students seeking more direction in their careers? Follow their hearts.

"I feel if something interests you, you should take it up irrespective if you see a future for it or not. You can make a future for it, if you are really interested in it. It's not really necessary to stick to the conventions."

Illindala sees a strong future for her in academia.

“Subiksha is a quick learner. She has the potential to become a brilliant teacher and researcher," he said.

Working with Illindala has been a great experience, Reshikeshan said. He is always stressing the importance of becoming an independent researcher while working toward her doctoral degree.

“Once you’ve graduated, you no longer have your advisor to always fall back upon or take advice on your papers. You’ve got to start publishing by yourself,” she said.

Story by Isabel Hall and Ryan Horns, ECE Communications