Montana State University

MSU professor named to Technology Review's young innovator list

May 15, 2002 -- Carol Schmidt

Steve Shaw   High-Res Available

Subscribe to MSU Newsletters

Bobcat Bulletin is a weekly e-newsletter designed to bring the most recent and relevant news about Montana State University directly to friends and neighbors via email. Visit Bobcat Bulletin.

MSU Today e-mail brings you news and events on campus thrice weekly during the academic year. Visit the MSU Today calendar.

MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN --Steve Shaw, electrical engineering professor at Montana State University-Bozeman, has been selected as one of 100 of the world's top young innovators in a list compiled by Technology Review magazine, a magazine from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The magazine calls the winners innovators who "will have a deep impact on how we live, work and think in the century to come."

Shaw, 29, who researches electrical transient currents in systems including fuel cells, was named to the TR 100, which is the magazine's list of 100 young (under 35) innovators and key leaders in technology and business. The TR 100 will be recognized at ceremonies on the MIT campus May 23. This year's members of the TR 100 are from throughout the U.S. as well as Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, India, Japan and Singapore. The nominees come from disciplines as far ranging as biotechnology, computing, energy, medicine, manufacturing, nanotechnology, telecommunications and transportation.

Shaw's recognition is for his groundbreaking work that began while he was pursuing his doctorate at MIT. Shaw then wrote algorithms that allowed for "non-intrusive load monitoring-sensors placed along electrical lines to interpret minute fluctuations, or transients, that can determine what is happening along every wire throughout an aircraft or building," according to the Technology Review magazine.

"This information can help building managers find faulty equipment or wiring, and help airplane inspectors pinpoint electrical malfunctions, before problems turn deadly."

Shaw said he studies the time between when a electrical flow is turned on until steady state.

"During that time you can determine system parameters and see what's going on." According to Shaw, such research can be applied to diagnostics and improved controls for systems ranging from appliances to complicated power networks.

Shaw says that transients from an energy flow is a little like "listening to a symphony and extracting the French horns from the whole. "Shaw's programs model extracted transients in real-time to ensure that the individual parts of a complicated system are behaving properly.

Shaw's work has great value to many commercial applications. For instance, he has applied for a patent on the design of a sensor that can find currents in a bundle of wire.

On a larger scale, utilities are also interested in Shaw's work in monitoring energy loads to detect spots on a grid that are deteriorating. The California Energy Commission is testing Shaw's advanced load-monitoring systems on several buildings. Shaw's algorithms can help manage the flow of energy more efficiently in backup or power systems that use sources like batteries, photovoltaics, fuel cells and gas turbines.

Since Shaw came to MSU after receiving a Ph.D. from MIT in 2000, he has turned to designing a control system for fuel cells, an emerging source of energy, and how to integrate fuel cells into established electrical systems. He has developed new methods for electrical and mechanical system parameters and controls for Fourier transform infrared spectrometers and control and monitoring for fuel cell systems. Eventually, Shaw hopes that his work will lead to better techniques to control full cells. Shaw researches such technology with a small fuel cell housed in his lab.

Technology Review says that a quality that sets Shaw apart from other engineers is that he is equally adept at theorizing, coding, and getting his hands dirty in the machine shop. In fact, it was his interest in working in the machine shop that motivated Shaw to change his undergraduate major at MIT from physics to electrical engineering. He built detectors that prevented a powerful accelerator from punching a hole in its own vacuum containment.

"I found that I liked to make instrumentation," Shaw said.

His change in major brought him closer to the discipline of his father, who is a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. Shaw also became a professor, taking his first job at MSU because he liked the freedom that MSU gave him in defining his academic and research roles.

Shaw has found that he enjoys the variety of working with students as well as research found at MSU. The university may further benefit from Shaw's talents as a scientist who has a knack for building. Shaw said his goal at MSU is to build a better research environment with an increase of the number of graduate students participating in research.

For more informatipn contact: Steve Shaw (406) 994-5982 or