UMass Amherst engineering student wins prestigious international scholarship

AMHERST, Mass. – A doctoral student in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) is the first student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to receive a prestigious international scholarship from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body of Nations United to assess the current situation. state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on global warming.

Aggrey Muhebwa, originally from Uganda, is one of 33 doctoral and post-doctoral candidates to receive the IPCC’s € 30,000 prize over two years. He is a graduate research assistant in Jay Taneja’s lab, whose work explores the use of machine learning to measure and manage infrastructure systems such as energy, transportation, water and sanitation. , in industrialized and developing regions.


Aggrey Muhebwa, PhD candidate UMass Amherst ECE

This year’s promotion, selected from 320 entries, was the award’s largest to date. Twenty-seven of the 33 scholarships, including that of Muhebwa, were announced during a ceremony on October 29 organized in Monaco by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, sponsor of the scholarship. Muhebwa was unable to attend the ceremony and officially received his award in December.

The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US Vice President Al Gore for his efforts on climate change. He used the prize money to establish the IPCC scholarship program, which has been awarded every two years since 2011 to a select group of students from developing countries or countries with economies in transition, such as Niger, India. , Rwanda, Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

Qualified applicants must hold a doctorate. students registered for at least one year or in post-doctoral research. They must also be citizens of developing countries whose research is related to topics related to climate change such as biodiversity, water management, the terrestrial carbon cycle and agroforestry.

Growing up in the Ugandan countryside, where electricity was only available for a few hours a day, a few days a week, Muhebwa saw first-hand the life-changing effect that a stable renewable energy source could. have on isolated communities.

“During those three hours, that’s how people are going to do things like grind corn and other critical things that require electricity,” says Muhebwa.

For his scholarship application, Muhebwa submitted the interdisciplinary hydrology work he is conducting with Taneja and Colin Gleason, professor of civil and environmental engineering. Much of Taneja’s research is focused on developing machine learning approaches for sustainable decision making in developing countries, while Gleason’s research group studies river hydrology to find out how it is. affected by climate change.

“Our work aims to leverage over 100 years of hydrological data, using trendy machine learning techniques to solve problems better, faster, and with more precision,” said Muhebwa. These issues include the ability to provide a stable source of energy in areas without the resources to establish the infrastructure.

One of his research projects proposes to use electric fishing boats as anchor loads to unload the extra energy generated by solar mini-grids in areas where traditional energy sources cannot easily exist. , as on the hundreds of islands of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa. Because the energy they generate cannot practically be stored for later use, solar systems are not the answer, he says.

It proposes to replace traditional diesel-hungry fishing boats with electric models as a greener and more cost-effective solution. “We could set up a mini-grid and use it to generate electricity for cooling ice, drying fish, domestic and commercial uses, but above all using it to charge electric boats,” he said. .

Equatorial Power has partnered with UMass Amherst and French utility company Engie to build this mini-grid on Lolwe Island and plans to expand the project to Lake Victoria.

“My work is not just about the developing world, it can literally affect the whole world, because climate change affects everyone,” says Muhebwa. “This isn’t just another research paper, it can help change the world.

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