Calendar Icon Sep 30, 2021 Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel RSS Submit a Story
Not long after arriving in Nebraska from Syria in 2017 to pursue graduate degrees in architectural engineering, Ahmad Almaghrebi discovered an unexpected direction on his career path.
As part of his graduate research, Almaghrebi has been involved in a data-tracking project through the Nebraska Community Energy Alliance (NCEA). Almaghrebi is collecting and analyzing data about electric vehicles at public and household charging stations in the state of Nebraska to predict future demand for charging access and the impact on the electrical grid.
"Most electric vehicles have a 100-kilowatt-hour battery, about four times the daily electricity use of the average household in the U.S. Current local grids do not have the capacity to accommodate these massively increased loads," said Almaghrebi, who in 2020 earned an M.S. in architectural engineering (AE) with an emphasis on electrical and is now pursuing a doctorate in AE.
To tackle this problem, Almaghrebi found that his experience in electrical engineering or in control and automated systems wouldn't be enough.
"I had to learn the data science basics and apply them," Almaghrebi said.
Almaghrebi found that he enjoyed data science and began thinking about how to incorporate it into his future engineering career. That led him to also work toward a graduate degree in data science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, which he expects to receive in December.
He also landed internships that allowed him to combine the two academic fields – five weeks with Eleven Talents in 2020 and 12 weeks this past summer with Valmont Industries, where he previously interned in 2018.
This summer, he developed models to help the company predict demand for its services. The results were potentially valuable to Valmont, in cost savings and increased efficiency.
"I was a data scientist intern primarily responsible for building and testing time series forecasting. I improved their forecast efforts by implementing a neural network framework and researching various portions of demand for its services." Almaghrebi said. "After getting back the results, I found that the new methods did well in forecasting the demand."
The experience this summer at Valmont Industries will also be valuable for Almaghrebi as he expects to graduate with a Ph.D. in architectural engineering in December 2022.
"I hadn't used time series before, but I've started thinking of using those same methods, then using more deep learning to predict behavior," said Almaghrebi.
When he completes work on the doctorate, Almaghrebi said he plans to start his career in industry, looking for a job that will allow him to use all of his experience. He's also encouraging fellow graduate students to include data science in their career plans.
"It's scary, not easy for some people to consider career path changes," he said. "Grad students will need those techniques – deep learning, machine learning, visualization, statistical analysis – in their research for any field. While they are still in school, that's the best time to take advantage of it."
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