IEEE PES WiP is impacting the lives of young engineers throughout the world. Larissa Affolabi, a new WiP member and a graduate of Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) shares her motivation for PES and WiP:
“I am Larissa Affolabi, and my roots are in Benin, a West African country. I am proudly a graduate of Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) with a Master of Engineering in Energy Systems. I also have a Master’s degree in Engineering from École Supérieure d’Ingénieurs en Génie Electrique (ESIGELEC), a general engineering school in France. This past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to do an internship at ComEd during which I worked on the impact of electric vehicles and PV systems on the grid.ComEd is an Exelon company based in Chicago and is the largest utility in Illinois. This fall, I started my industrial PhD with ComEd.
Just try to picture your life without electricity. The result could be appalling. Early on, I realized the value of electricity in not only my own daily life but on the scale of a nation. Indeed, my home country, Benin, suffers from many hardships, one of them is the insufficient power supply. Consequently, power outages have been part of my daily life. That sad reality outraged me. Knowing that in other nations, reliable electricity is taken for granted, I realize in mine it is due to privilege and/or site. So, that fact, coupled with my love of science, has been the driving force for my interest in the power industry. Thus, I have chosen the path of electrical engineering, which was an unusual career choice for a woman in Benin.
After high school, I did two years in an engineering preparatory school, a requirement to be admitted in an engineering school in France. During those two years, I had the opportunity to do an internship at Ghana Grid Company Limited (GRIDCo) a transmission utility in Ghana. That first contact with the power industry reaffirmed my career choice. The education I received from ESIGELEC gave me a comprehensive understanding of not only the electrical engineering field from power engineering, signal processing to electronics, but also the computer science field from programming, computer networks to database. The master program from IIT reinforced my educational background by providing me more technical knowledge of the power engineering field. Additionally, I had the chance to be part of a panel discussion at IIT during the Women History Month. Being part of that panel, I became more aware of obstacles women face in the workforce especially in STEM disciplines such as the gender pay gap and the lack of women in high leadership roles.
With most of the power systems in Africa being vertically integrated, coming to the US gave me a different insight, given the current deregulation dynamics in the power sector. I decided in January 2019 to become a member of IEEE under the recommendation of my professor Shay Bahramirad, the Vice President of Engineering and Smart Grid at ComEd and the Chair of the board of IEEE PES WiP. Being a member of IEEE gives me the sense of being part of a scientific and professional community and provides the opportunity to be exposed to the cutting-edge technologies in the field. From my perspective, with all the current and future challenges that the power industry will face, this field has never been so exciting! I highly encourage girls and women to not be afraid to step out of line and to choose the STEM and power industry fields. Let all, both men and women, contribute to a more diverse industry by joining the WiP society.“
IEEE PES WiP Chair