GE Digital Energy executive to deliver Discovery Lecture on developing electricity system collaborations

July 31, 2013  

John McDonald

John McDonald
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A leading international smart grid expert at GE Digital Energy who received the 2009 Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer award from Purdue University will deliver a Discovery Lecture at a campus workshop Aug. 28-29 in Discovery Park.

The keynote by John McDonald, director of Technology Strategy and Policy Development for GE Digital Energy, is titled "Smart Grid: Concepts, Standards, Deployments and Lessons Learned." The talk is at 8:15 a.m. Aug. 28 in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, Room 121.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, coincides with a free two-day smart grid research workshop, sponsored by the Cyber and Energy centers in Discovery Park, Purdue University Calumet, and the Purdue colleges of Engineering, Health and Human Sciences, Science and Technology. The workshop is titled "Building Research Collaborations: Electricity Systems."

"John McDonald has worked his entire career building a smarter grid, leading this nation's efforts in developing an infrastructure that will power our planet for generations to come," said Joseph Pekny, a Purdue professor of chemical engineering and interim director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

"As a Purdue alum, we're proud of the role John has played as a pioneer in the electricity industry and the next-generation knowledge he will bring to campus to share as part of our Discovery Lecture Series."

Through a $1 million gift to Discovery Park from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment, Purdue launched the Discovery Lecture Series in 2006 to bring prominent speakers to campus.

Smart grid refers to a class of technology used to deliver electricity through computer-based remote control and automation. The systems are made possible by two-way communication technology and computer processing, which allows the electric grid to operate more efficiently and respond effectively to sudden changes in supply or demand.

"The purpose of the talk and the workshop is to familiarize participants with smart grid concepts and solutions, including distribution, transmission, and asset and demand optimization," said Andrew Liu, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Purdue.

Pankaj Sharma, managing director of the Purdue Energy Center, said the workshop will include technical presentation and discussion on five topics related to electricity systems: security, data management/analytics, regional issues, workforce training and modeling/simulation/computing.

"The goal is to build interdisciplinary research collaborations, identify capabilities and gaps and discuss strategies to address them," Sharma said.

 A poster session also is scheduled for the evening of Aug. 28. Posters presented by students will be judged for best presentation awards. To register for the research workshop, visit

During his 39-year career in the electric utility industry, McDonald has developed power application software for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)/energy management system (EMS) and SCADA/distribution management system applications. He also has developed distribution automation and load management systems, managed SCADA/EMS and SCADA/DMS projects and assisted suppliers in the automation of Intelligent Electronic Devices.

In 2009, he was awarded the Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer award from Purdue, where McDonald received his bachelor's and master's degrees, specializing in power engineering. He received his MBA from the University of California, Berkeley.

McDonald served on the board of the IEEE Standards Association in 2010-11, focusing on long-term IEEE smart grid standards global strategy, and was IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) President in 2006-07. He is a member of Eta Kappa Nu (electrical engineering honorary) and Tau Beta Pi (engineering honorary), a Fellow of IEEE and was awarded the IEEE Millennium Medal in 2000, the IEEE PES Excellence in Power Distribution Engineering Award in 2002 and the IEEE PES Substations Committee Distinguished Service Award in 2003.

In addition, he teaches a SCADA/EMS course at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a smart grid course for GE and substation automation, distribution SCADA and communications courses for various IEEE PES local chapters as an IEEE PES distinguished lecturer. He has published 60 papers.

He is co-author of the book, "Automating a Distribution Cooperative, from A to Z," published by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Cooperative Research Network in 1999. He is editor-in-chief for the book "Electric Power Substations Engineering," third edition, published by Taylor & Francis/CRC Press in 2012.

With 60,000 global employees and annual revenue of $40 billion, GE Energy is one of the world's leading suppliers of power generation and energy delivery technologies.

Businesses that comprise GE Energy Management – GE Digital Energy, GE Power & Water, and GE Oil & Gas - work together to provide integrated product and service solutions in all areas of the energy industry including coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy; renewable resources such as water, wind, solar and biogas; and other alternative fuels.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Sources: Joseph Pekny, 765-494-7901,

Andrew Liu, 765-494-4763,

Pankaj Sharma, 765-496-7452,

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