Indian-Origin Professor of Engineering Wins Prestigious Global Energy Prize

Kaushik Rajashekara is only one of three people in the world who were selected this year for the honour.

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Kaushik Rajashekara, an Indian-origin professor of engineering at the University of Houston, has won the prestigious Global Energy Prize for outstanding contributions to transportation electrification and energy efficiency technologies while reducing power generation emissions.

Only three people in the world were selected this year for the honour, bestowed by the Global Energy Association, out of a record 119 nominations from 43 countries.

Rajashekara is joined as a 2022 laureate by Viktor Orlov, chief specialist of the Centre for Innovative Technologies (Rosatom in Russia) and pioneer in thermonuclear physics; and Mercouri Kanatzidis, professor of chemistry and materials science at Northwestern University and senior researcher at the Argonne National Laboratory.

The awarding ceremony will be held during Russian Energy Week in Moscow on 12-14 October.


'Does Not See Limits, Only Possibilities'

Rajashekara is engaged in power plants for electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles; electric and hybrid electric aircraft systems; hybrid flying vehicles and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles. He is the owner of 36 US patents and 15 foreign patents.

“Professor Rajashekara does not see limits, only possibilities. Electric vehicles are changing the way the world moves, and they have played a vital role in the exploration and improvement of this innovation,” said Renu Khator, the Indian-origin president of the University of Houston. “I congratulate him for this well-earned global distinction and for his role in positioning the University of Houston as the 'Energy University'." “The Global Energy Prize is reserved for the best of the best in energy, and Professor Rajashekara is certainly that,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, UH chief energy officer.

“Since joining the University of Houston in 2016, Rajashekara's vast knowledge and incredible research output has been instrumental in strengthening the intellectual base at UH and our strategic partnerships with the energy industry,” Krishnamoorti said.

"With those futuristic projects in the past, he says the next big thing will be flying cars – and he's all in. If his track record is proof, it may be time to look skyward for a parking spot," the university release said.

Originally from India, Rajashekara, grew up in a small village in South India, in one room along with his parents and two brothers. Though neither of his parents were educated, his mother was determined that her children would do better and be the best at whatever they pursued.

He received his B.Eng., M. Eng, and Ph.D. degrees from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore from 1971-1984. From 1977 to 1984, he worked as an assistant professor/senior scientific officer at the Indian Institute of Science and later earned an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University, USA in 1992.


Humble Beginnings

Coming from humble beginnings, Rajashekara says he is proud of his role in convincing a skeptical society that electric car could become a reality.

“I have been working on transportation electrification for a long time, starting with Rail Transportation in ABB, then electric and hybrid vehicles in General Motors and Delphi, and then for Aircraft electrification in Rolls-Royce. At the University of Houston, I was able to continue to work in this area and advance the technologies for reducing emissions,” said Rajashekara.

Despite having won numerous awards and accolades, Rajashekara was shocked when news of the award came. “When I received the e-mail about my selection, I could not believe it for a moment. This award definitely shows the importance of energy efficiency improvement and reducing emissions, particularly in the area of transportation, which is responsible for a significant portion of global emissions,” he said.

He has published more than 250 articles in international journals and conference proceedings, co-authored one book with IEEE Press, and has written six monographs and individual chapters for eight books.

He was elected a member of the US National Academy of Engineering in 2012, the Indian National Academy of Engineering in 2013 and the China National Academy of Engineering in 2021 for his contribution to development of the power conversion systems in transportation.

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