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Electrical and computer engineering graduate student Anishkumar Soman was honored for his research about solar energy.

Honor in solar energy

Photo by iStock and courtesy Anish Soman

Electrical and computer engineering graduate student recognized for contributions to photovoltaics

Anishkumar Soman (Anish), a doctoral student in the University of Delaware Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering received the 2020 John and Barbara Yellott Award from the American Solar Energy Society (ASES).

This award is given annually to a doctoral student concentrating on solar energy in a recognized institution of higher learning in the United States. This year’s award was conferred to Anish in June 2020 at the American Solar Energy Society’s annual national conference ASES SOLAR 2020. (The event was virtual this year.)

Anish was selected for his innovation in interface engineering and processing for silicon photovoltaics. Anish has been studying at UD’s Institute of Energy Conversion for the last four years. Founded in 1972, the Institute of Energy Conversion (IEC) is believed to be the oldest continuously operating solar research institute in the world and one of two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Centers of Excellence for photovoltaic research and education.

“Anish has already established himself with some outstanding credentials, even as a PhD candidate and an early-career scientist,” said Lawrence Kazmerski, professor at the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder, as he presented the award to Anish.

In nominating Anish for the award, Steven Hegedus, professor of electrical and computer engineering and Anish’s dissertation adviser, said: “In 2014, I received a request from a young Indian researcher to study with me for a PhD. Something about his application caught my attention. I sensed a person behind it who was as passionate about solar energy as I am.” At that time, Hegedus didn’t have a new project to take on another student, so he encouraged Anish to continue his studies at the institution where he was doing his research — the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B). In 2016, Anish came to UD and has thrived since. He has published 16 peer-reviewed journal articles, given more than 23 conference presentations, and received multiple awards.

Ujjwal Das, associate scientist at the Institute of Energy Conversion who guides Anish’s experimental activities, said: “Anish’s talent goes beyond photovoltaics into the whole area of photonics and coupled with this is the fact that Anish had an internship at the U.S. Army Research Lab (ARL) working on the reliability of 2-dimensional (2D) materials.” As part of this, his 2D material devices made in collaboration with ARL were launched on Antares rocket for degradation study on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019.

On receiving the award, Anish stated that this recognition is on behalf of the entire team at IEC and owes it to his advisers/mentors at IEC for their guidance and belief in him. He is also grateful to his family and friends who have been his biggest support to pursue his research aspirations away from home.

Anish is the seventh recipient of the John and Barbara Yellott Award. John Yellott was instrumental in guiding the activities of the predecessor organization of ASES — the Association for Applied Solar Energy — in its early years. He and his wife, Barbara Yellott, made gifts to ASES for the purpose of recognizing and supporting a student every year working in the field of solar energy. Anish was also awarded the Nanoelectronics, Electromagnetics and Photonics Graduate Faculty Award earlier this year by the ECE department at UD for his research contribution.

From left to right, William Shafarman, Ujjwal Das, Anishkumar Soman and Steven Hegedus with the John and Barbara Yellott Award.

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