Illinois Tech Invests Zuyi Li as Grainger Endowed Chair


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Zuyi Li

On January 31 Illinois Institute of Technology invested Zuyi Li, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and associate director of the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation, as the Grainger Endowed Chair in Electrical and Power Engineering.

Li has been a faculty member at Illinois Tech in ECE since August 2004. He received his Ph.D. from the university in 2002, his master of science degree from Tsinghua University in 1998, and his bachelor of science degree from Shanghai Jiaotong University in 1995—all in electrical engineering.

Li’s research interests include the economic and secure operation of electric power systems; microgrids and smart grids; cybersecurity; and renewable energy integration. He has pioneered several electrical engineering and cybersecurity initiatives in his work, implementing new and efficient ways to use and distribute energy in certain spaces.

He worked side by side with Carl and Paul Bodine Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering Mohammad Shahidehpour in designing, implementing, and operating the Illinois Tech Microgrid, the world’s first on-campus microgrid. This is considered Li’s most significant contribution to the university and the electrical engineering field as he helped to make functional microgrids and nanogrids a reality for the first time.

Through his associate director role in the Galvin Center, Li led the world’s first adoption and validation of his functional microgrid and nanogrid designs in university campuses. These designs included the Illinois Tech Campus Microgrid (ICM) and three nanogrids within the ICM known as the Keating Nanogrid, the Stuart Nanogrid, and the Crown Nanogrid.

Most importantly, he worked with several utilities, vendors, and developers in the implementation of the world’s first networked microgrids, the microgrid cluster that encompasses the ICM and the Bronzeville Community Microgrid (BCM) in Chicago.

Li has also made significant improvements to the field of smart grid cybersecurity through his application of optimization theory to the modeling of smart grid cybersecurity with incomplete information, which has opened a new research direction in the field. As a result, Li's discoveries and research help fill the gap in the understanding of practical power system cybersecurity issues and provides a theoretical basis for finding weak links in power systems and developing corresponding defense strategies and detection methods.

Li’s other major contribution is the efficient modeling of and solutions to the unit commitment  problem in electricity markets. His book, titled Market Operations in Electric Power Systems, was published in 2002 and addressed unit commitment in electricity markets systematically for the first time. The models that he proposed regarding ancillary services, AC transmission constraints, and combined-cycle units in unit commitment are indispensable for secure electricity market operation, and have been incorporated in major electricity markets in the United States for more than 20 years.

Photo: Grainger Endowed Chair in Electrical and Power Engineering Zuyi Li