Alumni Spotlight: Working through the Night to Improve Photovoltaic Systems (Super User) | Mon Sep 4, 2017

Masdar Institute Class of 2012 MSc Alumnus Putting Professorship to Use Improving Clean Energy Tech and Mentoring Future Engineers

The opportunity to apply innovative problem-solving skills towards pressing energy issues is what keeps Dr. Yousef Mahmoud, a Masdar Institute Class of 2012 MSc in Electrical Power Engineering, awake and working at all hours at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, where he is an assistant professor.

“I am motivated by my sense of responsibility to solve our energy challenges, which I gained in large part at Masdar Institute, and the thrill of innovation and the opportunity to do truly new things, which has been absorbing me completely. That is why I am working around the clock, with short naps stolen here and there,” he shared.

Dr. Mahmoud pursues this passion at the university’s Renewable Energy Innovation Laboratory, where, as the lab director, he leads work focused on enabling high penetration of solar energy onto the electric grid through the development of affordable and commercially viable technologies.

“As a researcher, I think that it is very important to do new things rather than continuing along strictly safe lines,” Dr. Mahmoud said.

Sticking to ‘safe lines’, Dr. Mahmoud says, will not lead to the types of technological breakthroughs needed to overcome the challenges impeding the spread and utilization of renewable energy resources, like high costs, inefficiencies, and grid integration and reliability issues.

Dr. Mahmoud’s research focuses on improving photovoltaic systems, and he has been published in several leading IEEE Transactions Journals.

His work has also led to a recent patent filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office, titled
“Image-Based Maximum Power Point Tracking for Photovoltaic (PV) Systems.” The new technology eliminates the energy losses in solar power systems caused by partial shading and has attracted the attention of many notable energy experts.

He was invited to present his research to the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and also received the best paper award in the prestigious IEEE International Renewable Energy Congress 2017.

“I believe that the most effective way to increase the use of clean technologies is to demonstrate that they are commercially feasible – to prove that their utilization will not only benefit the health of our planet, but will also return profits to our shareholder,” Dr. Mahmoud explained.

Dr. Mahmoud’s pathway to professorship was very much rooted in his transformative MI experience. After MI, he entered a PhD program at the University of Waterloo in Canada, where he continued the electrical power engineering work he began at MI, and earned his doctorate. He was then approached by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute to set up his own research lab, even before defending his doctoral thesis, which he eagerly availed as a chance to put the technical and interpersonal skills he gained to use.

“From selecting my PhD research topic, to joining academia and deciding my current research direction and plans, MI has played an instrumental role in my life,” he recalled.

Driven by MI’s vision and commitment to developing sustainable technologies to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges through intensive research, coupled with an eagerness to inspire the next generation of engineers to do the same, Dr. Mahmoud discovered that professorship was the perfect fit for him.

“The feeling of personal responsibility I have for developing innovative clean energy solutions to help create a more sustainable world that I gained during my graduate studies is the most distinguishable feature about Masdar Institute, which I could not have gained from any other school,” he remarked.

Inspired by his academic advisors from MI, including Dr. Hatem Zeineldin and Dr. Weidong Xiao, Mahmoud describes his main goal as an educator: “Is not only to make my students successful, but also to help them succeed throughout their careers by developing in them a desire to learn, a desire to advance, and a desire to excel in everything they do in life, just as my MI advisors instilled in me.”

With his personal commitment to achieving meaningful innovation in energy as a researcher and his work as a professor to train his students to become talented innovators in their own right, Dr. Mahmoud continues to enrich the legacy of Masdar Institute and its alumni.


Erica Solomon
News and Features Writer
05 September 2017