KALAMAZOO, Mich.—From enhancing the power grid to amping up electric battery safety and making advancements in neurobiology, Bharat Goel has had a hand in a number of research projects that could have a profound impact on society—and he's just getting started.
Graduating from Western Michigan University on Saturday, Dec. 17, with bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and applied mathematics, Goel has already started on an accelerated master's degree in electrical engineering and is working a full-time job as an engineer for Consumers Energy following a successful internship.
It's a steep trajectory of success that started in middle school when he first started taking classes at Western through the Academically Talented Youth Program (ATYP). The accelerated math courses helped him recognize an interest in engineering early. When it came time to start thinking about college, his destination was a no-brainer.
"I knew I wanted to do engineering, and Western's engineering program—the building, everything—looked so good. I thought, 'Why would I leave (West Michigan) when there's something so great so close to me?'" says Goel, who grew up in Portage, Michigan.
Uncertain what to specialize in, Goel dove into Western's robust Registered Student Organization scene to both get engaged on campus and also start to fine-tune his career aspirations.
"I joined a few engineering organizations to help me decide what I liked, and that really helped. I joined the Formula SAE car team my freshman year, and they had me do a mechanical engineering project. I thought it was cool, but when I saw the electrical stuff they were doing, it fascinated me."
Goel also joined the Sunseeker solar car team, which designs, builds and competes in national races with a vehicle powered by solar energy.
"The solar car team had the biggest impact on me," he says. "There were so many cool electrical projects, and it has given me so many skills in addition to what I learned in class … like building a circuit board."
The experience helped a spark he had for energy efficiency ignite into a passion. "I feel like as an electrical engineer I can have an impact on the fight against climate change. Environmental science has always been a driver for my engineering," he says.
EXPLORING NEW HORIZONS
In addition to engaging in organizations, Goel wasted no time getting involved in research with Western's world-class engineering faculty.
"The size of the engineering department is perfect for those types of opportunities. I feel like if I was at a much bigger university, I wouldn't have the chance to do that," he says. Goel had his first research experience in his second year on campus. "Western is really good at providing those opportunities. I was able to do research with (several) professors over the course of my time here, so that was really cool."
Goel's research spanned a diverse array of topics, including:
Transmission and power grid components with Dr. Pablo Gomez, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, in the WMU Power Lab.
Battery efficiency and sustainability with Dr. Qingliu Wu, associate professor of chemical and paper engineering.
Neural response measurement with Dr. Damon Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Passive energy generation with Dr. Massood Atashbar, professor of electrical and computer engineering.
"I definitely thank Western for how accessible research opportunities are," Goel says. "It gives you a lot of chances to try new things and learn skills that you can apply anywhere."
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