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Blizard experiences Switzerland as visiting scholar


After attending Associate Professor Colin N. Jones inspiring plenary talk at CCTA in Trieste, Italy in August 2022, Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Stephanie Stockar noticed interesting intersections between his work and her student Audrey Blizard's research. Following a discussion with Blizard, an NSF Graduate Fellow in mechanical engineering and Ohio State Presidential Fellowship recipient, she reached out to Jones to explore opportunities for Blizard to join his group as a visiting scholar, providing her with a unique and career-shaping experience.

“On a personal note, I was beyond excited to have one of my students spend time in my home country of Switzerland,” said Stockar. “It's a small world – Jones and I first crossed paths more than 15 years ago at ETH Zurich, and now Audrey has had the opportunity to study under his supervision. I am very happy that she had both an amazing academic and personal experience!”

Blizard hiking at the Lac d'Emosson in Valais, Switzerland

I recently had the opportunity to spend six months working at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland. I worked with the Laboratroire d’Automatique in the Predict group under the supervision of Associate Professor Colin N. Jones. This lab focuses on developing advanced predictive control methods for complex, fast or large-scale systems, with applications including robotics, smart grids and autonomous driving.

There was a natural synergy between the work done by this group and the research I am conducting at The Ohio State University under the supervision of Assistant Professor Stephanie Stockar. My research interests lie within the field of optimal control for the efficient operation of energy systems. Currently, I am focusing on the energy –consumption-reducing control of large-scale district heating networks, which are systems of heating that use economy of scale to efficiently provide heat to multiple buildings.

During my visit, I was able to incorporate the work being done by students in the Predict lab with my own research. Many students in this group are focused on increasing the energy efficiency in individual buildings through advanced control methods. The overlap between their research discoveries and my own allowed me to develop a new hierarchial control method for large-scale district heating networks. I took their method for the quantification of a building’s flexibility in heating demand and combined it with my work on large-scale systems with many connected buildings. Using their work as a foundation, I develop a novel control structure that is real-time implementable and greatly improves the efficiency of district heating networks operations.

            Along with the work I did within the research group, I also had the opportunity to interact with a variety of outside groups, giving me a wider perspective on the research being conducted on sustainability and advanced control throughout Europe, and make valuable connections for my future career. EPFL hosted many international speakers, and I attended the National Centre of Competence in Research "Dependable Ubiquitous Automation Conference, which was a meeting of a national research group funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation that focused on the automation of energy systems, mobility and industry.

In addition to being a great opportunity for professional development, this experience also contributed to my personal growth. I got to visit many European countries, which, having never left North America before, allowed me to experience a variety of other cultures. I also got to experience the amazing landscapes and hiking that Switzerland had to offer. Additionally, the group I worked with was a diverse group of grad students who were all supportive and helpful in my research journey and in navigating the move to a new country. Plus, it was an amazing opportunity to practice my French!

Category: Students