ECE-NTUA Assistant Professor Anthony Papavasiliou receives the Bodossaki Foundation Distinguished Young Scientist Awards for 2021 in Applied Sciences and Technology

The Bodossaki Foundation Distinguished Young Scientist Awards are part of the public benefit initiatives of the Bodossaki Foundation that are aimed at advancing education and research. According to the Foundation, the specific goal of these awards is to “support the creative activity of young Greek scientists, to reward their consistent and constant effort towards advancing science, to honor their ethical standing, and to contribute towards advancing appropriate role models in Greek society”.

In 2021, the Foundation awarded the following four scientific domains: (1) Basic Sciences, (2) Biosciences, (3) Applied Sciences and Technology, and (4) Social Sciences. The specific focus of the third domain (Applied Sciences and Technology) for the 2021 edition of the awards was “Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources, Environmental and Natural Resource Management, Low Carbon Emissions Technologies, Efficient Energy Use and Energy Conservation”.

In receiving the 2021 award, Prof. Anthony Papavasiliou said: “I am both deeply humbled and deeply grateful. By selecting renewable energy and sustainability as the focus of Applied Sciences and Technology, the timing of the Bodossaki Foundation could hardly be more appropriate. The recent war in Ukraine has resulted in horrible loss of life and other humanitarian disasters. It has also reminded us that energy security is an incredible, yet fragile, benefit that our modern society has long enjoyed. The swift recovery of the economy from COVID, compounded by disruptions in gas supply resulting from the war, have sent gas (and consequently electricity) prices shooting to unprecedented levels over entire weeks. As the European energy system is stressed to its limits, an important no-regret measure that has emerged from these testing times is the commitment of the European Union to further accelerate the deep integration of renewable energy resources, with extremely ambitious targets being set up to 2050 in the REPowerEU plan. This commitment comes at a time when environmental patterns are clearly changing, as Greece can painfully testify following the devastating wildfires during the summer of 2021. Energy and sustainability are thus emerging as major challenges for our generation, and the Bodossaki Foundation recognizes this through the 2021 edition of the awards.

My own engineering vision for responding to these daunting challenges can be summarized in one sentence: let us integrate as much renewable energy as we reasonably can in our energy systems by mobilizing demand-side flexibility. Consumers are a central part of this proposition: as consumers, we need to partake in the energy transition by seamlessly integrating our flexibility in power grids. Recent electricity and gas bills charged to Greek households have proven that we need to be a part of the solution. The vision of my research is an infrastructure of automation down to individual households that orchestrates demand patterns (which will become increasingly flexible, e.g. due to the massive penetration of electric vehicles in power grids) harmoniously with renewable resources such as wind and solar power. The engineering background with which I approach these challenges is operations research. This is a domain of applied mathematics that develops models and algorithms for deriving optimal decisions in complex systems. Previous recipients of the Bodossaki Foundation Distinguished Young Scientist award include “giants” of computer science and operations research, which I consider as scientific role models and sources of professional inspiration, including Constantinos Daskalakis (2019), Dimitris Bertsimas (1997), and John Tsitsiklis (1994).

Even though our team does not engineer hardware equipment, as operations researchers we do engineer decision-making infrastructure that coordinates these assets. This decision-making infrastructure is used by an array of power system stakeholders, from utilities that produce power to network operators that manage the grid that gets the power to our home. This allows us to keep the lights on in systems with ever-increasing amounts of renewable resources by intelligently timing, routing and pricing the delivery of power over the grid.

In my view, operations research has become a core engineering discipline in electrical and computer engineering. It has become integral for energy, and transcends well beyond energy into numerous central areas of ECE-NTUA. I therefore look forward to seeing the curriculum of NTUA adapting in order to stay ahead of this evolution. Having recently moved from UCLouvain in Belgium to NTUA in Greece, I am very excited to return to my homeland and to have an opportunity to set up a research team in NTUA that can uphold a tradition of research excellence”.