The field of Electrical Engineering is gaining unprecedented traction due to its immense potential not only in Electric Vehicles but also in power optimisation of hybrid microgrids.

Sree Hari Charan Cherukuri, PhD, our next pathbreaker, Lead Systems Engineer at an Electric Vehicle Consultancy firm, works on problems related to sizing of battery packs, inverters and motors for on/off road vehicles.

Sree Hari talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about always wanting to leverage his PhD in Electrical Engineering to bridge the gap between academia and the industry by solving real problems.

For students, there isn’t a better time to specialise in Electrical Engineering because of the plethora of challenges in addressing our energy needs through clean technologies!

Sree Hari, Your background?

I am Sree Hari Charan Cherukuri. Although I was born in Chennai, our family moved to a small village in the Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh because of certain family issues. Later on, I completed my primary and secondary education in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. My parents have worked in Microfinance companies in the private sector. I have always had an interest in subjects like physics and electrical engineering. This interest has continued for a long time and it is only because of this keen interest have i been able to contribute to the field of Electrical Engineering.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I completed my BTech (Electrical & Electronics Engineering) from Anna University, MTech (Power Systems) from Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology and Research Academy(SASTRA) and PhD in the field of Electrical Engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology..

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

My interest in physics grew immensely because of my teachers in school, Ms. Vahini and Mr. Srinivasa Rao. Slowly this interest in physics made me passionate about electrical science which is also a part of the same subject. Later on, many of my faculty members and my parents who always supported me are responsible for what I am today. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

Because of a financial crisis after completion of my class X, I had to join a diploma course thinking that I will take up a job. As I was interested in the field of Electrical Engineering, I completed my diploma in Electrical and Electronics Engineering.  Fortunately, as the financial situation improved after my Diploma, I was able to pursue my graduation and post-graduation once again in the field of electrical engineering because of my keen interest. Later on, as I was offered a PhD position with institutional scholarship at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), I was able to continue my studies without any hindrance. During my stint at VIT – Vellore, I was able to focus very well on research and I was quite successful in proposing a new type of power electronic converter called DC electric spring, which is a first of its kind technology developed in our lab. Because of the level of innovation in the research work which I had been conducting, I was able to get an external scholarship from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt. of India. This encouraged me to work harder and I was successful in publishing a couple of good publications which eventually resulted in the award of my PhD. 

During my tenure as a PhD student I worked broadly in the field of power electronics and its applications in powering systems. My PhD problem focused on developing a solution to improve the autonomy of hybrid microgrids in the presence of fluctuating energy resources and flexible loads. The proposed DC electric spring is analogous to a mechanical spring and is useful in DC microgrids which are weakly regulated. It acts as a regulator which can control the power consumption of flexible loads during generation deficits in the microgrids. 

Later on, based on my PhD work, I was selected as a postdoctoral research associate at IIT Gandhinagar (IITGN) to work on a project funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India. At IITGN, I got an opportunity to work in close collaboration with industrial partners and this has helped me in understanding the methodology involved in development of products which suit industrial requirements. 

Though my Postdoctoral work was not very much related to my PhD work, it required similar skills and therefore I was able to do pursue it without much difficulty. 

Later on, I developed an interest in understanding how the industry works in line with the requirements of the market and this led me to take up a job as Lead-Systems Engineer, Electric Vehicle PowerTrain at M/s. BlueBinaries Engineering and Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Chennai. With the experience that I am gaining here I would like to try my level best to bridge the gap between academia and industry. This is my pressing desire, which I hope I will achieve before breathing my last.

How did you get your first break?

Mere hard work. During my tenure as a PhD student, we used to have many roadblocks in conducting research. The only solution to this is to spend more time in labs.

The research which I have conducted during my PhD and PostDoc involved design, development and testing of various power electronic converters. The work involved development of simulation models in software like MATLAB and OrCAD, Hardware in Loop (HIL) testing using real time operating systems like dSPACE, etc. Therefore, it can be said that the work which I have conducted is mostly in line with what industry needs. It is due to this that I was able to step into industry.  

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

All the technical challenges that we used to face during conducting research were addressed only by doing hard work. I always believe that if we work hard to reach our goals, there will always be some natural force which intervenes and makes our path easier.

Where do you work now? Tell us what you do

I currently work for an Electric Vehicle Consultancy firm where I try to solve problems related to sizing of battery packs, inverters and motors for on/off road vehicles. The skills required for my job are basics of Electrical Engineering, Power Electronics and Controls. I love anything which is challenging and related to the field of Electrical Engineering.

BlueBinaries is an engineering service provider which provides end to end solutions for electric vehicles which involves design and development of electric power trains, automatic driver assistance systems, Clusters, Vehicle & Systems Benchmarking, E/E Architecture Design, Systems Engineering, Functional Safety & Cyber Security Management, etc. The customers are spread around the globe and key players include Skoda, Tech Mahindra, etc.

How does your work benefit society? 

The quality publications which I published during my doctoral and postdoctoral stints will be useful to this country in terms of increasing the knowledge base of Electrical Engineering which will help improve the human development index of this nation.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

My first research paper which was accepted on my birthday, 27th March 2017, is something which is memorable to me. 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

It is always advisable to walk the path of your interest. Please don’t fall prey to the propaganda that this course (like computer science, for example) is good, that course is not good, etc. Kindly, go with your passion. 

Future Plans?

Only plan is to work in close collaboration with Industry and Academia, nothing more.