Team

Current Students

Current Ph.D. Students

Baturay Calci is a Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, and a former President of the UT Austin chapter of INFORMS. His research interests include energy market modeling, stochastic models, and network optimization. Baturay is currently developing complementarity models of natural gas markets that will be used to improve upstream decision making in this rapidly evolving sector. The project is being co-supervised by Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Jonathan Bard. For this work, Baturay was named Runner-Up for the 2019 Dennis J. O’Brien USAEE/IAEE Best Student Paper Award. For summer 2020, Baturay is doing an internship with Wayfair. He received a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering with high honors, along with a minor in Economics, from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey, where he is from. As an undergraduate, Baturay worked on operations research projects with applications in healthcare and logistics.

Gopika Jayadev is a Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, in which she previously completed an M.S. Before joining the ORIE program, Gopika received a B.S. in Production Engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, then spent two years working as an Industrial Engineer for Honda Motor India. Gopika’s research interests include mixed-integer optimization, game theory, and statistical learning. Under the guidance of Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Erhan Kutanoglu, Gopika played an important role in the UT Energy Institute’s Energy Infrastructure of the Future study, leading to a publication in Applied Energy. For that paper, she developed a multi-region energy system optimization model of the U.S. electricity sector, and used it to assess alternative developments of U.S. electricity infrastructure from the present to 2050. Now, Gopika is working with Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Jonathan Bard to formulate and analyze bilevel models of interactions between strategic players in natural gas markets. She is also exploring new approaches to solve these difficult optimization problems.

Erick Jones is a Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering. He received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Petroleum Engineering from Texas A&M University. As an undergraduate, Erick researched growth mechanisms of single-walled carbon nanotubes. From there, he returned to his hometown of Houston, TX and spent several years working in the design, manufacturing, oil and gas, and HVAC industries. These experiences motivated Erick to pursue research that can enhance quality of life by improving access to sustainable resources, particularly where a lack of physical infrastructure or economic resources presents a major obstacle. In his research, Erick develops integrated assessment tools to analyze how energy systems, water resources, supply chains, urban space, and transportation networks operate in concert to influence economic and environmental well-being. He has published journal articles in Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment and Sustainable Cities and Society. Since Fall 2019, Erick has been an NRT Fellow in the NSF Research Traineeship program on food-energy-water systems at UT. Erick also participates in education and outreach activities through the Planet Texas 2050 initiative and Science in Residence, which encourages K-12 students to think about climate change and other STEM issues. For summer 2020, Erick received the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship from the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, which supported his research with Los Alamos National Laboratory on the SimCCS tool for CCS infrastructure optimization.

Rachel Moglen is a Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering. Before coming to UT Austin, Rachel earned her B.S. in Civil Engineering and her M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. Her masters researched applied dynamic programming to optimize residential electricity use in response to price signals. Her work earned the Dean’s M.S. Research Award for Mechanical Engineering and led to a publication in Sustainable Buildings and Cities. Rachel is an NRT Fellow in the NSF Research Traineeship program on food-energy-water systems at UT. In summer 2020, she interned with Sandia National Laboratory to help develop the Water Network Tool for Resilience, which helps water distribution systems cope with disaster scenarios. Rachel is the current President of the UT Austin chapter of INFORMS, and a Macro-Energy Systems Fellow with the Stanford Precourt Energy Center. In her free time, Rachel enjoys running, petting dogs, and inventing recipes.

Milad Eghtedari Naeini is a Ph.D. student in the Operations Research and Industrial Engineering program, where he previously earned an M.S. Before coming to UT Austin, Milad obtained an M.S. in Construction Engineering and Management from University of Tehran. His research interests are primarily decision analysis and the study of uncertainty in finance and climate change. He is being co-supervised by Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Eric Bickel. Milad’s recent research assesses the drivers of evolving social cost of carbon estimates over time, and what the changes in these estimates imply about structural and parametric uncertainties in the integrated energy-economy-environment system. This work was published in Environment Systems and Decisions. He is now incorporating negative emissions technologies including direct air capture into the cost-benefit analysis of climate change mitigation to investigate their effects on optimal near-term abatement levels.

Nan Zhang is a Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering. Nan is collaborating with researchers from the Electricity Markets and Policy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to assess practices for ensuring resource adequacy in electricity systems, with a focus on resource adequacy challenges in the Western U.S. Before this, Nan worked together with LBNL researchers to capture the interactions between centralized and decentralized investment and operation decisions in an electricity generation and transmission expansion model, leading to a publication in Applied Energy. Separately representing the decisions made by utilities and customers in these models is becoming increasingly important as more and more customers adopt distributed energy and storage technologies. In a previous study published in IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid and co-advised by Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Grani Hanasusanto, Nan developed data-driven dynamic programming algorithms for optimizing distributed energy storage operations under multiple uncertainties. Before joining the ORIE program, he obtained a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Nan gained undergraduate research experience in simulation, scheduling, and natural language processing.

Qianru Zhu is a Ph.D. student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering. She collaborated with researchers from the Electricity Markets and Policy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to assess how utilities estimate the economic impacts of power interruptions due to extreme weather events. Qianru has also done research focusing on modeling the mutual interdependencies between urban form and energy consumption, and using these frameworks to analyze energy policy outcomes in cities. She published this work in the journal Cities. Qianru is now using the TIMES energy system model to evaluate the techno-economic potential to decarbonize various sectors of the economy, with a comparison of the U.S., China, and India. This interdisciplinary effort is sponsored by the UT Energy Institute. Qianru is an NRT Trainee in the NSF Research Traineeship program on food-energy-water systems at UT. She previously earned B.S. degrees in Mathematics and Economics from Pennsylvania State University. As an undergraduate, Qianru did research in evolutionary game theory, and was awarded a Women in Mathematics Scholarship and an Undergraduate Research Award.

Current M.S. Students

Cade Bourque is an M.S. student in the Nuclear and Radiation Engineering program at UT Austin, where he previously received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. During his time as an undergraduate, Cade served as the sole UT delegate to the Texas Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation, and developed programs to assess the economic and operational feasibility of appending concrete-based thermal batteries to nuclear power plants in order to improve their economic competitiveness. Currently co-supervised by Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Kevin Clarno, Cade is working with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop discrete-event and physics-based simulations of fuel-pin fabrication processes to improve their efficiency, reliability, and safety. He has interned with LANL during the summers of 2019 and 2020. When not focused on academics or research, Cade enjoys recording and mixing music.

Sean Corcoran is an M.S. student in the Energy and Earth Resources program at UT Austin. Prior to attending UT, Sean earned a B.S. in Economics and B.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has experience in federal energy policy, power system modeling, and utility-scale renewable project development. Sean is interested in the transformation of carbon-intensive sectors at the intersection of engineering, economics, and policy. Sean is currently working with Dr. Leibowicz, Dr. Andrew Waxman, and Dr. Sheila Olmstead on the techno-economics of deploying carbon capture and storage to reduce GHG emissions from Gulf Coast industrial clusters. Additionally, he is interning with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to further develop their capacity expansion model of the U.S bulk electric power system. In his free time, Sean enjoys hiking, backpacking, and discovering new watering holes around Austin.

Eiji Kawai is an M.S. student in Energy and Earth Resources at UT Austin. For his thesis research, Eiji is using optimization tools to study decarbonization strategies for the industrial sector, with a focus on Japan. Before coming to UT in 2019, Eiji had 13 years of work experience at the Chiyoda Corporation in Japan, which is a large global engineering company. He was a lead project engineer and project leader in the oil and gas field, and was assigned as a core member of the Decarbonization Advancement Office in the company. Eiji’s B.S. is in Chemical Engineering and he is a certified Professional Engineer (P.E.) in the U.S. In his spare time, Eiji enjoys playing soccer and taking his daughters to Austin’s parks on the weekends.

Alumni

Ph.D. Graduates

Arkasama Bandyopadhyay earned a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from UT Austin in 2020. Her dissertation titled “Techno-Economic Methods for Analyzing the Energetic and Economic Effects of Solar, Storage, and Demand Response” was co-supervised by Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Michael Webber. Before coming to UT Austin, Arkasama earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from Oklahoma State University. During her Ph.D., Arkasama worked with Austin Energy, the local municipal utility, to analyze the techno-economic impacts of adding distributed solar and storage to the electricity system. Her research used optimization models to assess the combined ability of distributed energy resources, demand response, and time-varying rate structures to reduce peak load in the residential sector. This research has been published in Sustainable Cities and Society. Following graduation, Arkasama became a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Max Brozynski earned M.S. (2018) and Ph.D. (2020) degrees in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering at UT Austin. His dissertation was titled “Operations Research Models of Technology Transitions and the Role of Policy Support.” Before coming to UT, Max obtained a B.Sc. in Mathematics with Economics from the London School of Economics in the U.K. His graduate research began with energy system optimization model development and applications in urban-scale decarbonization strategies. This work was published in the journals Applied Energy and Sustainable Cities and Society. Since then, Max has formulated innovative models of technology policy decision making, which he has used to derive analytical insights and study optimal incentives for electric vehicle technology development and diffusion. One of his articles on this theme was published in the European Journal of Operational Research, and in his most recent work, Max developed a bilevel optimization model of infrastructure-dependent technology adoption. Max was President of the UT chapter of INFORMS and served as Co-VP of Research for the Longhorn Energy Club. After graduating, Max became a Senior Consultant at Echelon Analytics in Dallas.

Urairisa “Birdy” Phathanapirom earned a Ph.D. from the Nuclear and Radiation Engineering program at UT Austin in 2018. Her dissertation titled “Autonomous Decision Making in Fuel Cycle Simulators Using a Game Theoretic Approach” was co-supervised by Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Derek Haas. Birdy’s research focused on optimization of transient periods in nuclear fuel changeover through the combined use of fuel cycle metrics, simulation, and decision analysis. Part of her dissertation research was published in Annals of Nuclear Energy. She previously earned a B.S. in Physics and an M.S.E. in Nuclear and Radiation Engineering, both from UT. Birdy was a Nuclear Energy University Program graduate fellow and two-time winner of the DOE Innovations in Fuel Cycle research award in the Energy Policy category. During her graduate studies, Birdy also interned at Idaho National Laboratory quantifying environmental impacts of the nuclear fuel cycle, and at the International Atomic Energy Agency examining best practices in radioactive waste disposal. After graduating from UT, Birdy became a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Nuclear Science and Engineering Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

M.S. Graduates

Chris Lanham received an M.S. in Energy and Earth Resources at UT Austin in 2018. His thesis titled “Optimal Decarbonzation Pathways for Urban Residential Building Energy Services” won a Director’s Award for outstanding research and theses in the EER program. This work was subsequently published in the journal Applied Energy. Before coming to UT, Chris earned a B.S. in Environmental Engineering at Yale University. He grew up in Houston, TX and returned to his hometown upon graduating to work as a Project Engineer at Bluewing Midstream.

Kunal Punjabi graduated from UT Austin with an M.S. in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering in 2017. For his M.S. report, Kunal collaborated with researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to econometrically analyze solar PV quote data from the EnergySage online marketplace. His work was subsequently published as an NREL technical report and in the journal Energy Research & Social Science. Kunal received a BTech from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee in 2015, then worked at Qualcomm for a year before coming to UT. He published a patent on a technique for battery life enhancement by using machine learning to allocate resources optimally on smartphone chips. Kunal has always been interested in statistics, optimization, and data-driven strategies. Since leaving UT, Kunal has worked as a Software Engineer at Amazon in Seattle, WA, where he develops voice experiences for newly joined Alexa customers.

Brittany Speetles received B.S. (2018) and M.S.  (2020) degrees in Mechanical Engineering from UT Austin. Her M.S. thesis titled “Representative Day Selection in Capacity Expansion Modeling: An Accelerated Energy Transition for Texas” was co-supervised by Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Michael Webber. In it, Brittany evaluated different methods that energy system modelers often use to reduce the temporal resolution of their models in order to make them more computationally tractable. As a case study, she explored how the choice of representative day selection methodology influences the most cost-effective decarbonization pathway for the ERCOT electricity system identified by a capacity expansion model. Brittany originally got involved in energy and sustainability research with Dr. Webber when she was an undergraduate, and worked on modeling the use of solar energy for desalination and on comparing the energy intensities of grocery shopping versus ordering meal kits. After graduating, Brittany began working as an Energy Analyst at ICF International in Virginia. In her free time, she enjoys painting, cycling, and playing tennis.

Peter Tutton earned an M.S. in Energy and Earth Resources at UT Austin in 2018 as a Fulbright grantee. His thesis titled “Carbon Capture and Storage Network Optimization Under Uncertainty,” which was co-supervised by Dr. Leibowicz and Dr. Susan Hovorka, won a Director’s Award for outstanding research and theses in the EER program. Peter developed a stochastic optimization model for carbon capture and storage infrastructure planning including sources, sinks, pipelines, and ship routes, that hedges with respect to uncertainty in future capture targets. He received an M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Bristol in the U.K., then worked in the oil and gas industry for several years, before arriving at UT. After completing the EER program, Peter has worked as a Research Scientist at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology, where he provides solutions to network optimization problems. Outside of work, he can usually be found rowing on Lady Bird Lake.