Please tell us about your work

Ninaad Desai, an electrical engineer at the DOE Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), spends half her time carrying out short-circuit analysis of the Laboratory’s power equipment, and the other half overseeing the controls of the experimental power systems for the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX), a fusion device.

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She recently began power simulation work for the NSTX upgrade and maintains configuration control for the tokamak power systems while working in the NSTX Control Room. A tokamak is a type of fusion device. “My job is to control and configure the power supplies using software. When something does not work right, I troubleshoot,” she says, noting she has written a code for plotting NSTX discharge summaries.

Desai also has done analysis work and maintained power systems for smaller PPPL experiments, and has completed a short-circuit study of the entire PPPL site. “It was the largest AC power project I have worked on,” she says. Other duties included evaluating the associated arc flash hazards on the system equipment, and working with the AC Power team to generate arc flash labels. These labels specify the safety controls for the arc flash hazards on the Laboratory’s electrical equipment rated from 13.8kV to 480V.

What did you study?

Desai received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a major in power systems from ADIT, S.P. University, in India in 2005 and a master’s in electrical engineering with a major in Very-Large-Scale-Integration design from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2007. After working as an intern at PPPL, she was hired in 2007.

What do you love about your job?

“I’m glad that I get to work on so many projects because it keeps me motivated and interested. Here there are many unique system configurations. I get to learn so much at PPPL through fieldwork and with people,” Desai says. “Six years of a bachelor’s and master’s are equivalent to one year here.”

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?

Desai, who grew up in India, became interested in engineering during her final year of high school. “I enjoyed physics, math, and chemistry. If you’re good at these three, you’re good at engineering,” she notes. Her choices were either electrical or computer engineering. She picked the first based on her school choice and its course options. “I started out blank, and luckily this was my field.”