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Can you tell us about your work?
“You can be green and prosperous, too,” explained Dr. Bhaskaran Gopalakrishnan, professor and director of the Industrial Assessment Center at West Virginia University’s College of Engineering and one of the founders of the Industries of the Future – West Virginia (IOF-WV) program.
Started in 1997, IOF-WV is housed at the National Research Center on Coal and Energy. The idea behind the program’s title is one of bringing traditional industries into the future. It grew out of awareness that certain industries consume more energy than others; so, if you target them for energy savings, in the future you’ll have a lot of savings from energy reductions.
This spring, a new EPA-designed and state-funded program called E3-WV is being added to IOF-WV’s offerings to help manufacturers save energy and reduce their impact on the environment.
How does your work help the environment?
IOF-WV industrial assessments look at energy savings that come from improving the manufacturing processes, sealing the building envelope and right-sizing the equipment in the factory. The E3-WV program adds to the efficiency effort, by taking into account all greenhouse gas emissions, improving the carbon footprint, reducing waste and emphasizing pollution prevention, Gopalakrishnan explained.
“If a company starts saving energy and it starts improving environmental emissions – then it starts reducing its operating costs. The company becomes more competitive and it can reinvest the savings in expanding its business and in retaining or creating new jobs.
“E3-WV improves the economy by creating and retaining jobs. Being green is being prosperous,” he said.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
Gopalakrishnan grew up in Chennai (formerly Madras), India. He got his bachelor’s degree in production engineering in India from College of Engineering, Guindy, and then he pursued his master’s degree in operations research at Southern Methodist University, Dallas. Finally, he received his doctorate in industrial engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Va.
Can you describe your experience at WVU (West Virginia university)?
Gopalakrishnan has worked at WVU for 21 years, where he is a professor of industrial and management systems engineering. He dedicates half his time to research and half to teaching, instructing courses in industrial engineering and researching energy efficiency in both manufacturing processes and in buildings. He said that even though he doesn’t teach energy efficiency in the classroom, he works it into the sophomore program by including several problems for the engineering students to solve.
What do you like about your work?
“Being part of the WVU system is close to my heart. The university is good in that it allows the faculty members to create their own areas of expertise. The school encourages research – it is a priority from the dean,” he said.
Gopalakrishnan went on to point out that the IOF-WV program was developed to satisfy the mission of the university and to contribute to the economic development of the state. “Not many programs can do both. Four hundred to 600 industrial clients are now realizing energy savings – and probably creating more jobs in the state — due to our work.”
Gopalakrishnan praised the support he’s had from the West Virginia Division of Energy. The state has supported this program for more than 15 years. Even though there had been Federal funding cuts – he was grateful that the state has always supported the IOF-WV program.
How is West Virginia?
“West Virginia’s best kept secret is the niceness of the state, its people, and the affordable way that one can raise a family in this place. I like the Morgantown area. It is a good growth area,” he said.
Gopalakrishnan sees a lot of international students in WVU’s graduate programs. In fact, he said he runs the energy efficiency assessment work with mostly international students, many who come from India, China, and Vietnam. Often it is their first time living in the states.
“West Virginia has very little crime – and we are all blessed that we do not feel discriminated against. Prejudice is very low here. That is very important.
“The people are so friendly and nice – and that is a big advantage to living here. I have a lot of clients in small, rural places. I’ve met a lot of people and made a lot of friends – and I feel truly blessed because of that.”