Damien Lawhorn, an electrical engineering (EE) Ph.D. student and a NASA KY Graduate Fellow, has successfully defended his dissertation. His Ph.D. advisor was Dr. Dan M. Ionel, EE Professor and L. Stanley Pigman Chair in Power, Director of the SPARK Lab and of the PEIK Institute. The UK Ph.D. committee included Drs. Aaron Cramer, Gabriel Dadi, James Lumpp, and Joseph Sottile.
Lawhorn, who was born and grew up in Liberty, Casey County, KY, graduated with a BS in EE from UK in May 2017. He continued directly for Ph.D. studies at UK, initially as an L. Stanley Pigman graduate scholar, and since January 2018 as a NASA KY Graduate Fellow on three consecutive research projects assignments on topics of electric power components and systems for aircraft. He spent the summers with the NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC), contributing as an intern to the development of motor drives for NASA's first all-electric aircraft, the X-57 Maxwell, as well as to advancements toward MW hybrid-electric propulsion systems. During the academic semesters, Lawhorn's research took place at UK in the SPARK Lab, and funding was provided by NASA KY grants for which Drs. Ionel, Cramer, and Lumpp, served as PI and Co-PIs, respectively.
Lawhorn is a founder and a leading member of the Kentucky Organization of Robotics and Automation (KORA), a multidisciplinary student-led club, which has competed in a NASA-driven national competition, and an Executive Committee member of the UK IEEE PES and IAS student chapter. Upon Ph.D. graduation, he will move to Houston to work in collaboration with the NASA Johnson Space Center on advanced electronics projects as part of the Space Exploration Systems Group within Jacobs Engineering.
Due to pandemic restrictions, the Ph.D. defense was held online, and the public section of the presentation was attended by internationally distinguished academics, colleagues and friends, and family. The full Ph.D. dissertation will be available online from the UKnowledge repository. Examples of Lawhorn's research concepts and results include those from the journal paper "Multi-objective Optimization for Aircraft Power Systems using a Network Graph Representation," recently published in IEEE Transactions on Transportation Electrification. Other publications, together with an event note for the online Ph.D. defense, and a short bio are available from the SPARK Lab website.