An Immersion in All Things Engineering – How One Scholarship Plus and John W. Estey Award Recipient is Preparing to Make His Mark
Growing up in Plantation, FL, Daniel Zintsmaster joined his high school’s FIRST Robotics Competition team, where he got involved in designing and manufacturing nationally competitive robots, and he’s been hooked on engineering ever since.
“I literally lived in the lab,” he said. “It was through that experience that I got excited about the engineering process and working with people in the field.”
Now a senior in Clemson University’s Electrical Engineering program and a 2023 Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) PES (Power & Energy Society) Scholarship Plus Initiative and John W. Estey award recipient, Daniel is taking every opportunity to find immersive experiences to grow his knowledge.
Daniel discovered power engineering during his sophomore year when he took a class on the subject with his research and academic advisor, Sukumar Brahma, PhD, a Dominion Energy Distinguished Professor of Power Engineering and IEEE Distinguished Lecturer/Fellow.
“I have never taken a class with someone who is so skilled at being able to express how exciting the field is,” Daniel said. “He spent so much time talking about how the power field is evolving and revolutionizing and how they need novel, exciting ideas to keep it being pushed forward.”
Daniel has continued to work with Dr. Brahma on various undergraduate research projects and Clemson’s PES student chapter, which he leads, and credits his mentor for helping him secure a recent internship with NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory).
“My experience at NREL was great. I lived with other engineering students who were working on different projects, so having the ability to have conversations about all the incredible things we were working on and talk about how our fields relate was awesome,” he said. “I got to work with supercomputers designing simulated distribution systems and how each piece of that reacts, as well as give presentations to people who have been working in this area for years. I loved every second.”
It was at NREL that Daniel discovered that a PES General Meeting was being held nearby. At the conference, he learned about the Scholarship Plus Initiative, and was introduced to another of his mentors, PES President Dr. Jessica Bian.
“The first day I was linked with Dr. Bian through a micromentoring program. I was so fortunate to talk to her about her experience,” he said.
When asked what his first PES conference experience was like overall, Daniel said, “At first it was like drinking out of a firehose. There is so much of everything and there were so many people from across the country and globe, it was little intimidating. But everyone was so open to hearing my questions and thoughts that I felt heard and as if everyone was on the same team. We were all there to learn and figure out how to get everyone on the same page on the many things that are happening in the field. Being part of that kind of supportive environment has been very cool.”
Daniel’s interest in the power field was also stoked by the fact that it is akin to a “noble cause.”
“One of the reasons I’ve become so passionate about power engineering is because so much of what we are doing has a basis in sustainability,” he explained. “I’ve become very outspoken about it and enjoy explaining how we can include accessibility and sustainability into the models we’re developing to improve people’s lives in the future. This is a field that touches everyone.”
Another aspect of the power field that Daniel supports is the diversity he has experienced – particularly at the PES General Meeting.
“It’s something I’ve found to be very interesting. I was living with four female engineers at NREL, and we had discussions about how gender roles affected them in the labs, etc., and at the PES meeting the diversity of people and ages and genders and cultures and ideas was so refreshing. I’ve benefitted from their plurality of ideas, and it really shows the possibilities are endless going forward.”
While Daniel will remain at Clemson a while longer to earn his master’s, he is eager to enter the field when the time comes.
“I have a few options. Pursuing a PhD might be a logical next step, but I want to get out there and start doing stuff,” he said.
In the meantime, Daniel will continue seeking out immersive experiences as he continues to prepare for his future and pursue his other passion – comedy and improv, which he notes has served to strengthen his understanding of engineering concepts.
“There’s a cool connection that I’ve found between the two and it also provides a balance that has kept me sane,” he explained. “The idea that in any sort of performance it’s about finding connections, which I feel is essential in the engineering process as well – how we turn disparate ideas into something truly awesome.”