NU Step to PhD: Yerzhigit Bapin, PhD in Science, Engineering, and Technology

Our next NU Step to PhD rubric guest is Yerzhigit Bapin, NU SEDS graduate, with a PhD in Science, Engineering, and Technology. Yerzhigit is a Bolashak scholar (МEng in Energy Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, 2014). At the moment he works for Tetra Tech as an Energy Sector Expert in a project funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and USAID to develop a concept for low-carbon development of the energy sector in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Tell us about your doctoral research?

The topic of my doctoral dissertation was “Application of Probabilistic Approaches to Efficient and Reliable Operation of Electrical and Electromechanical Systems.” My research was based on the development of new approaches in the management of energy systems and passenger elevator control systems. The traditional algorithms and techniques for managing power systems and elevators are based on a deterministic approach, where connections between events occurring in systems are carried out according to strictly defined patterns. Unfortunately, this approach has its drawbacks: it is not able to adequately respond  to random and/or unpredictable events. The purpose of my research was to develop control algorithms based on a probabilistic approach. This approach takes into account such parameters as errors in predicting the generation of renewable energy sources (RES), or the number of people waiting for the elevator on different floors.

What is the applied value of your work?

The application of my method, for example, in elevator control systems, will allow building management to transport passengers more efficiently. In other words, the number of people waiting for the elevator will decrease, as will the waiting time for passengers. When it comes to power systems, the main advantage of my approach is a more precise definition of the required power reserves. The importance of accuracy in determining power reserves is due to the economics of energy systems, and an increase in the share of renewable energy sources in the total energy balance of the country.

What can you tell us about the process of writing your thesis?

My first year at NU was the most challenging. By the end of the first year of study, it was necessary to form a clear vision of my research from an abstract idea, and to defend my project in front of a committee. I failed my first try miserably; the professors turned my project into Swiss cheese. They gave me three months to prepare for a second try. It should be noted that the comments that were given to me during the first defense played a positive role in the further implementation of my study. The second defense went off with a bang. Six months later, my first conference paper was published. The second year of my studies was marked by a change of scientific advisor. My new supervisor, Professor Vasilios Zarikas, explained all the subtleties of research work, helped me determine a further path for the development of my research, and taught me new methods and tools for statistical analysis. Additionally, it is worth thanking Professor Luis Rojas-Solorzano of SEDS for his contribution to the development of the SEDS doctoral program. If we compare the SEDS doctoral program at NU with what it was 5 years ago and what it is now, then there is an obvious growth in quality! The facilities offered to doctoral students at NU have also improved significantly. We have seen a major increase in competitiveness among applicants, and the number of international students has also significantly grown.

What would you advise to future doctoral students?

Start learning more about the topic of your planned research as early as possible. The search for a supervisor, as well, must begin long before the submission of documents for the PhD program. This will greatly increase your chances of being admitted and successfully defending your thesis. I would also like to wish patience and perseverance to future PhD students, as from time to time you will feel exhausted and a desire to give up on your PhD aspirations. But, you must know that this is absolutely normal and that all doctoral students go through it.