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WPI Professor Alexander Emanuel Receives Two Distinguished Honors from Institutions in his Native Romania

An honorary doctorate from Polytechnic University of Bucharest and election as Honorary Member of the Romanian Academy of Technical Sciences recognize pioneering contributions to electric power research and power quality over more than four decades

December 2, 2015
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Alexander Emanuel, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has received two distinguished professional honors from institutions in his native Romania.

In June, Emanuel was elected an honorary member of the Academy of Technical Sciences of Romania. And on Oct. 20, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, the largest technical university in Romania. Both honors recognize Emanuel for his more than 45-year career in electric power research and education, specifically for his pioneering work in the area of power quality and power system harmonics—scholarship that has made him a world-renowned expert in that field.

Emanuel receives his honorary degree from Polytechnic University of Bucharest rector George Darie

Emanuel began his work on power system harmonics in 1965, as industry began to adopt solid-state devices for controlling electric motors. He showed how these and similar devices distorted the normally smooth waveform of alternating current, introducing harmonics that can cause catastrophic failures of motors, capacitors, and cables, while also damaging electronics, including televisions, computers, and phone systems.

Emanuel published some of the earliest studies demonstrating the danger of harmonics (he is the author of more than 200 peer-reviewed journal and conference articles, overall) and worked diligently to inform the electric power industry of this emerging threat. In 1984 he founded the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) International Conference on Harmonics in Power Systems, which was held on the WPI campus. Over the years the bi-annual conference has grown considerably as its scope has widened to encompass all areas of power quality. The 16th conference was held in 2014 at Polytechnic University of Bucharest; the 17th will take place in October 2017 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Emanuel's research has earned him a number of honors and accolades. One of the most significant was the John Mungenast International Power Quality Award, presented to him in 1999 by E Source, an energy information service company, and Power Quality Assurance magazine. In announcing the award, Bill Howe of E Source called Emanual "a pillar of accomplishment and conscience for the PQ World."

Over the years, Emanuel has also received the Power Systems Instrumentation and Measurement Award, presented by the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Society, and the R. H. Lee Award from the IEEE Industry Applications Society. This year, he received the IEEE Power and Energy Society Technical Committee Working Group Recognition Award in honor of his work as chair of the Working Group on Nonsinusoidal Situations of the Power Systems Instrumentation and Measurements Committee. He is a Life Fellow of IEEE, a distinction bestowed on just one tenth of one percent of members, and he is the author of Power Definitions and the Physical Mechanism of Power Flow (Wiley, 2010), which was recently published in Mandarin by the China Electric Power Press.

At a recent ECE Department 'Spark Party,' Emanuel demonstrated a student-designed device that uses a laser capacitor to crush cans and launch them 30 yards

Born in Romania, Emanuel completed his college education Israel, receiving a BS and an MS in electrical engineering and a DSc in electrical and computer engineering from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. He worked as an engineer for several years in Romania and Israel, before coming to the United States in 1969. Before joining the WPI faculty, he worked as a senior research and development engineer at High Voltage Power Corp. in Westborough, Mass.

At WPI, Emanuel is known as a devoted, passionate, and distinguished educator. He is the only faculty member to have received WPI’s Board of Trustees’ awards for outstanding academic advising, outstanding research and creative scholarship, and outstanding teaching. He has also won his department’s outstanding teaching award several times. In 2008, he received the Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Price (an honor he shared that year with David Adams in Biology and Biotechnology); the award honors faculty members for excellence in all relevant areas of faculty performance. He held the George Ira Alden Professorship in Engineering from 1988 to 1999 and the Weston Hadden Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1996 to 1999.