CEE PhD Student Shows Academic Excellence with Receipt of GRFP & DOE iBuild Fellowship

Katherine Bassett is a graduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering under the advisement of Assistant Professor Michael Kane. She is pursuing a PhD in Interdisciplinary Engineering in his Automation in the Built Environment Lab, and will receive an MS in Sustainable Building Systems along the way. She is the recipient of a 2022 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. According to NSF, “Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation’s technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society at large.”

Bassett has also received a Department of Energy 2022 iBuild Fellowship. The program aims to “strengthen the pool of well-trained, diverse graduate student scholars who are equipped for research-intensive careers in fields supporting the larger mission of building energy efficiency.” Her position as both a Graduate Research Fellow and an iBuild Fellow is recognition of her academic excellence and potential of her interdisciplinary research goals.

“I plan to pursue research that sits at the intersection of people and the changing power grid,” Bassett explained. “In the face of an electrifying economy and increasing penetration of renewable energy, I hope to help find answers to an essential question: ‘How can we rapidly, equitably, and reliably integrate larger electric loads and increased variability in electricity generation all while ensuring our grid is resilient enough for a changing climate that we can’t yet predict?’ Without this knowledge, we will be hard pressed to ensure a reliable, equitable or speedy rollout of the modern electric grid.”

People, Clean Power, and the Grid

The demand for energy is not constant throughout the day or from season to season due to ever shifting needs for artificial lighting, heating, and cooling. Many renewable energy sources also produce electricity at a non-constant rate. For example, wind will not always be blowing to power turbines, and the sun will not always be shining to be absorbed by solar panels. As these clean power sources become a larger share of energy production, improving energy efficiency and the timing of energy use will be crucial to avoiding blackouts and other complications.

“Demand response controls are a valuable part of this energy transition as they can help shed peak power demand as well as shift electric loads to times when renewable energy is being generated,” she said. Bassett plans to use her fellowship to research improving the reliability and predictability of these demand response events by better understanding how, why, and when people interact with their home heating and cooling systems. “While we know how to use sun, wind, and water to produce clean electricity, we are still in the genesis phase of understanding how to dependably integrate large quantities of these components together.”

A native of Chicago, Katherine Bassett attended Valparaiso University where she studied mechanical engineering with multiple minors in mathematics, environmental studies, and electrical engineering. Her passion for the energy sector began there with research into concentrated solar thermal fuel production and an internship at the utility company ComEd’s smart grid department.

Related Faculty: Michael Kane

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering